My seventeen-year friendship with Bud and Dib got off to a fast and furious start. The first day I met them, we had lunch. And for the next year or two, I was at their house nearly every night until 2:00 AM. Often, it was more like 3:30. And we had jobs!
Bud would usually be the first to fade, which made for great fun as Dib and I put various objects — not all of them edible – into his slack mouth, holding our hands over our own mouths as we silently cracked up. It seemed no matter how late it got, we’d get our fingers out like a first grader doing math, and count off how many hours of sleep we could still get if we only stayed up another half hour.
And then, of course, I had the 40-minute drive home. How we managed such hours is a mystery to me, only explicable by the dim notion that we must have been very young once.
One such occasion lives on in particular infamy. On that night, a new phrase was coined, one which has defined many a moment since.
It was well past the 3:00 mark, while exchanging the usual prolonged goodbyes in the kitchen, when it happened. My eyes glazed over, and I began to sway, an idiot’s vapid grin taking over my face. The last thing I really remember while standing was Dib’s eyes widening as her mouth formed words in slow motion. “Oh boy…”
Then I was down. On the floor in a ball. Giggling maniacally. It was really more like screeching, if I’m being completely honest. Whatever it was, it robbed me of breath, of motor control. Of sanity.
Bud and Dib crouched over me with a mixture of concern and fascination, like city folk watching a horse give live birth for the first time. Every word they said to try to elicit a response from me seemed like the funniest joke I’d ever heard. The only response I could manage for the first five or ten minutes was peals of laughter, interrupted only by my body’s self-protective measures as it struggled to keep my breathing.
You see, a mental picture had formed in my mind. Well, it sort of took over my mind. It isn’t even that funny from where I sit now. But in that moment, for whatever reason, it was all there was in the universe. I was in the throes of it. I drifted through the expanse of it. It had me in its grip. Hard.
Over the course of – and I’m really not exaggerating – the next thirty minutes, I eeked out an explanation in one- or two-word pants, the laughter mounting to shrieks, my face and hair completely soaked with tears. I hurt everywhere, which also seemed somehow indescribably funny to me in that state. Pain! Funny! Yes!
Enter the fun house of my deranged imagination – if you dare.
In my mind’s eye, I was standing at a hall closet door. I was compelled to open the door, though I knew I probably shouldn’t. But I did. Immediately, the weight of whatever lay inside bore against the door, forcing it open toward me. I tried and tried to shut Pandora’s Box, but the force mounted against me. After a few more seconds, the closet burst open, and an endless pile of Kermit the Frog dolls flew down on top of me. Each Kermit landed with its own little *squeak* – somewhere between the sound of a bike horn and a dog’s chew toy. An interminable, squeaking rain of Kermits was burying me alive.
You can imagine my shock and dismay. Of course, this was all in my mind. But it was hysterical all the same. Really riotous stuff, I tell you.
That is the picture I saw – the mental image that might have ended a less stalwart friendship. Thereafter, that special place in the wee hours, where any and everything becomes side-splittingly amusing, has been dubbed “Kermit’s Closet.” No sooner do the eyes glass over than Dib will shake her head and say, “Oh boy, watch out. Kermit’s Closet is opening.”
One of my favorite questions to ask people is “When was the last time you laughed so hard that you cried and your stomach hurt?” It’s astonishing to know just how many people really can’t remember the last time. That’s a shame. My last time was this afternoon, joking with Chad while we had “office hours” for the Clown Nose Club.
The time before that, was this morning. All by myself. I’d had a ridiculous dream that I was a German wrestler. The stakes were high. It was all very serious in the dream. But when I woke up, the juxtaposition with reality had me in stitches for a solid minute. Great way to start the day.
They say that laughter is the best medicine. There are countless studies to support the truth of this old adage. And that begs the question, what kind of funk does our soul wind up contracting if we don’t take our medicine?
Laughter is cathartic. It keeps things in perspective. It prevents us from taking ourselves too seriously. I’m not suggesting that everyone needs to brave Kermit’s Closet (though it is a fun visit). But I can personally vouch for the benefits of learning to laugh, and doing it often.