Laughter, Sacred and Healing
During this season of giving, I wish to give thanks and to honor Rose Tahe, friend and co-author of First Laugh, Welcome Baby. I met Rose when she became a student in a children’s literature master’s class I was teaching on the Navajo Nation. Rose already had her BA master’s degree. She was fluent in both Navajo and English, both oral and written. She had taught at Many Farms schools for many years and now she wanted to write books for children — books in which Navajo children could see themselves, their families, their landscape — books from which other children could learn about being Navajo.
Rose and I became friends and writing pals. We met each Wednesday morning at the Junction Restaurant in Chinle. Rose always ordered a big slice of lemon meringue pie. She was a tiny lady who loved pie. And stories.
First Laugh, Welcome Baby, illustrated by Jonathan Nelson, Navajo artist, is about a Navajo tradition that is a child’s first formal welcome into a family and clans. The celebration expresses the parents’ hope that their child will always be friendly, kind, and caring. Everyone in the family tries to be the first to make a new baby laugh. The person who succeeds begins a special relationship with the child and has the honor of hosting the First Laugh Ceremony.
Everyone comes to celebrate! Guests are given a pinch of salt on their tongues to renew their good character. Giving away precious salt is the child’s first act of sharing. The family wishes for their child a life of many smiles and laughter and also a life of quick generosity, a kind heart, and becoming a person who will gladly give to anyone in need. In this video, I share with you First Laugh, Welcome Baby. (Thank you to Charlesbridge, the book’s publisher, for allowing me to post this read-aloud through February 15, 2022.)