© 2017 by HEATHER FRACCALVIERI.

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Laugh Lines

This is Bekah. We're in small group together. In July we tragically lost one of our group unexpectedly in a car accident. It happened right after we had all just met together. And it was hard for all of us who had just talked and shared a meal and laughed with him just minutes before. The next time our small group family got together, Bekah asked me how I was doing. But the way she asked it, and the way she looked at me as she waited for me to answer was just different than the countless other times I'd heard that same question for that past week. Not to say she was the only one who cared about the answer or the only time I felt love in the question. Far from it. But it's something I have a hard time putting in words--why this simple exchange stands out in my mind. But I think it has something to do with just who Bekah is. She's just herself and that's who you get when you're with her. There're no fronts. No obvious calculation of behavior. Nothing that seems forced. And it's this generosity of self and honesty of being that I see in her smile.

I think it's natural for most people to just show certain versions of themselves to certain people. Or we say things because we feel we have to, or we think is expected or socially required. Perhaps it's my own social ineptitude that I'm projecting. (I often stumble and mumble through conversations and exchanges with people I don't feel fully comfortable with--which is most people. I try to crack jokes or share an anecdote only for them to flop. Miserably. So more often than not, I just shut up completely, so much so that I'm sure most people who have met me may wonder if I can even talk at all. And often, I wish that I could get over whatever this extreme case of introvertism is that manifests itself as crippling social awkwardness, and I could just be myself. Because I'm hilarious. Really.) But how often is the question "how are you" thrown around? So much that often it is empty of all meaning. So it's rare when it is asked with all the possible substance those three little words can have, but also heard and understood. Here's a little social experiment: after your reply, what's the next thing they say (supposing you didn't just ask them the same question)? How long before they turn the conversation back on themselves? I think that even when one has every good intention it's hard to come up with the right thing to say. 

I don't even remember what it was exactly that Bekah said to me, but I remember feeling that she voiced the complexity of my emotions and my confusion. It was like this gift that she was giving me. But it was so natural. And so comforting. 

When I was ten, I had the same social reluctance I had now, maybe even worse. And I didn't feel like I had anything to give. And one day someone told me I had a beautiful smile, and I thought, that's it, that's the thing I can give. So that's what I feel about a real, honest to goodness, genuine smile. It can be a gift.  

I have this theory about laugh lines. That they're a proof of a generosity of that gift. Years of a consistent natural tendency for sharing joy. I think there's a special kind of beauty in that.

Watercolor and gauche, 18" x 24"