I’ve always believed in the healing power of laughter, but I didn’t realize what an affirming lesson was in store for me recently when I flew to Northern California to help celebrate the 50th wedding anniversary of my late husband’s oldest brother Gerald and his wife Martha. Both southerners, they met when he was stationed at an army base near her hometown. I was expecting a rather traditional event, but instead the community center in their Coarsegold community near Yosemite Park was even more a celebration of their years together as clowns!
I had experienced the special joy Martha and Gerald shared with others through their clown company, Carrousel of Clowns, when my late husband and I lived in Los Angeles. I was especially honored back then in the early ’90s when they asked me to help them create a brochure and invited us to many of their events, including cheering up the elderly in nursing homes and sick children in hospitals, as well as clowning at festivals and parades and private parties. But I didn’t realize that the clowning began so early in their marriage – and that Gerald had already discovered his lifelong avocation before they met.
Carman George, a reporter for Sierra Star, a local newspaper, captured the joy that clowning brought to their lives and to those around them in a half page article before the event that seemed to set the tone for the actual day. She also was there that day to chronicle the fun and laughter shared with their friends.
As we entered the community hall, each guest was quietly given a squeezable red clown nose to hide In a pocket so that everyone could surprise the couple before they cut their anniversary cake. More than 80 people crowded the hall. I sat next to three generations of a family involved in my relatives’ clown company, which is still active in Los Angeles. They talked about what great role models Martha and Gerald were for them as they shared their love of clowning.
Finally it was time for the toast and Gerry and Martha were asked to close their eyes while everyone put on the red noses. We toasted the surprised and delighted couple and laughed at each other’s funny faces. Thank you, Luther and Molly( their clown names), the revelers seemed to be saying, for taking your magic and laughter to Coarsegold and brightening up the lives of yet another community!! They love you for it!