So last Friday at work I spent the entire day proofreading. I love it when there’s a big stack of proofs. It’s the last chance to catch mistakes, to make the rough places smooth, and I also get to get up and walk every time I’m done with a page and to deliver it to its editor or page designer. But I think I also like proofing simply because I get to hold a pen in my hand and make marks on paper. Marks correcting mistakes, or noting where a cutline is missing, or writing my initials next to each story as I finish it. Also, maybe, if it’s a somewhat leisurely day, and there are photos yet to be placed, I’ll read the cutline and do some interpretive drawing.
So Sunday morning in church, two pews behind me, there was this baby who seemed to be seized with a fit of holy laughter. We had started singing “To God Be the Glory,” I think, and he started up, and at first it just sounded like undifferentiated fussy baby noise, but it was soon clear that this baby was not winding up to cry; he was laughing his head off. That pure, helpless, hysterical laughter that you see in the YouTube videos where the dad is cracking his baby up by tearing paper or the mom is alternately terrifying and cracking her baby up by sneezing or the German shepherd is cracking his baby up by snapping bubbles in the air.
They say laughter is infectious, and baby laughter is particularly infectious. I nearly became infected. I looked around and the woman behind me grinned. I grinned back, and then chuckled, and then did that suppression thing where your diaphragm draws in sharply and your shoulders rise, and if we hadn’t been singing the line “The vilest offender who truly believes,” I probably would have given in and become a helpless laughing baby myself.
In other magnificent baby news, I’m told a baby I know ate lasagna and corn and mandarin oranges with uncharacteristic delight recently. It was newsworthy enough to alert the media. She’s apparently at that developmental stage when babies figure out that maybe the good taste of something is worth enduring the odd texture. (That developmental stage can actually continue well into adulthood, depending on the food. Some of us never come to accept tapioca.)
There’s magnificent baby news all over. One of them looks especially good in hats. One of them is brand-new and teaching his two big (but not very big) brothers to find their nurturing and hospitable sides. Two of them — a baby to the east and a baby to the west — aren’t here yet, but lots of people await their arrival and even know one of their names.
That church baby laughed several more times in church, loudly, and usually when we were singing. Some people either didn’t notice or pretended not to notice. I’m glad his people didn’t take him out of the room (which most parents would have done with crying at the same volume).
I’m not always sure it’s OK to laugh at some of the things I laugh at. For the past two years for Lent, I’ve tried to give up gratuitous humor. I failed more colossally than with anything else I’ve ever given up. (Caffeine, in comparison, was a piece of cake. Big chocolate cake.)
Then that baby yesterday. Then this, tonight, which I came across while reading Love & Salt: A Spiritual Friendship Shared in Letters, quoted from G.K. Chesterton’s Orthodoxy:
There was something that [Jesus] hid from all men when He went up a mountain to pray. There was something that He covered constantly by abrupt silence or impetuous isolation. There was some one thing that was too great for God to show us when He walked upon our earth; and I have sometimes fancied that it was His mirth.”
Bucket list item: Someday there will be someone to whom I can say, “Magnificent, baby.”