Laugh Track of Life

What if life were like a television show, replete with canned laughter and music? While watching one of our favorite sitcoms from the 80’s—Family Ties,which was Michael J. Fox’s big break—we noticed the abundance of loud, annoying laughter. It was the laugh track.

That got Dad and I discussing what life would be like if we could add bursts of giggles, chuckles, and full-out belly-shaking, eyes-tearing laughter to our own lives. What if we had an instrument the size of a key chain that we could engage on demand?

When you were little and amused by the smallest joke, the ability to ignite a burst of laughter would have caused you to laugh even more. You learned to play hide and seek, and our “inability” to locate you tucked behind a curtain with your tiny feet peeking out from the bottom would always invoke a tiny chuckle, which would be even better if only we could add the family laugh track. Dad says he would love to be able to signal the time to laugh with the special device when I just don’t get his jokes.

The laugh track is an obvious segue to background music. Girls mean drama. Casey even had a sign in her room signifying that—“Drama Queen.” Everyone with a daughter knows it’s true. When you were little and you all would come home and explain what mean or unfair thing had been done by a teacher or classmate, it would have been nice to be able to turn on a piano or set the violins playing.

Kelly created this scenario when she made our “Moving to North Carolina” movie. Our farewell party with our longtime friends from New York was accompanied by Billy Joel singing “New York State of Mind.”

We had a real estate agent that did not understand the meaning of the word “No.” While the moving company was at our house and every room was in shambles, she just showed up with two clients. I told her no, and went back to cleaning. When I took a break from my work, I discovered her opening closets and decending into the bowels of the basement. Kelly’s video showed me locking the door as “Evil Woman” played in the background.

As I climbed the rickety stairs to our attic, cleaned the bathrooms and chipped off layers of thick ice from the garage freezer, “Hi Ho, Hi Ho, It’s Off to Work We Go” played on our sound track. The video continually flashed to scenes of Jamie and Casey lounging on the sofa. Really girls?

While Dad and I stayed late into the evening as the van was being filled with our furniture, our clothes, our memories, and our lives, the three of you were at Grandma and Grandpa’s house. You walked throughout the neighborhood accompanied by a live band (no need for the fake laugh track that day). Practice night for Boonton’s drum and bugle corps was that evening, so you all marched down the street to “The Bells of St. Mary’s.”

Aunt Ellen somehow talked her way into Aunt Marian’s former home, so you were able to show us where we had those Thanksgiving Dinners for twenty-five aunts, uncles, and cousin; the family room where the kids watched “March of the Wooden Soldiers;” and the living room where the aunts sang together after dinner. It was a treat reliving those days. No soundtrack needed there. The conversation was better without it.

As we approached the “Welcome to North Carolina” sign, “Carolina Girls” was playing as you all sat in the back of the car. Your lives as Jersey girls had come to an end. The move was real. We were on the road to becoming Southern Belles.

Dad pulled into the little village in our new neighborhood, and suddenly Belle, from Beauty and the Beast, was belting out “Little Town, It’s a Quiet Village.” I remember being excited at exploring our new home and town—Chapel Hill—but at the same time scared and incredibly guilty for making this move at this time in your lives.

The moving van pulled up in front of the house. The driver was a nice guy named Jack, so “Captain Jack” played in the background. This time, I put you all to work unpacking.

It has been over eleven years since leaving New Jersey. Three of us have stayed, but two of you have begun your lives in different states—Jamie in New Jersey and Casey in Maryland. I miss those days of being able to see all of you and our friends and family often.  So that song, is “The Way We Were.”

We don’t get to have the laugh track or the music in the background. But when you are with Dad or me, there is always the threat that something will happen which will make us break out in song because there really is a song for just about any occasion.

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