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A Steven Tyler wig, a ‘Hammer’ — and Halloween laughter galore | Maria Panaritis

When you laugh so hard that you cry, you realize how little you ever really laugh like this at all. And it makes you sort of sad. It makes you realize that we need more wigs. More funny voices. More fun.

Sometimes, a Halloween pirate wig is all we need.
Sometimes, a Halloween pirate wig is all we need.Read moreMARIA PANARITIS / Staff

First, it was a ridiculous red baseball cap from which strands of stringy brown hair were dangling like greasy tassels. This prop out of central casting turned my husband into a stoner character only Kevin Smith could dream up for a movie.

Then came a short, tacky brown wig from the Smokey and the Bandit era. We quickly decided it could double as a winter hat. After that, a fiery mess of long, red hair, followed by a Blackbeard-meets-Steven-Tyler monstrosity.

The father of my children plucked these beauties from a bag of Halloween costumes the other night and brought down the house.

Grandma had brought the wigs,  along with a huge stash of grown-up costumes. It was supposed to help solve a problem: Get us into a weekend Halloween party without spending time or money. We did not expect this chore would turn an exhausting weeknight into a reminder of what we have lost as adults.

We laughed. And I mean, we laughed a lot. It was weird. Because, when you laugh so hard that you cry, you realize how little you ever really laugh like this at all. And it makes you sort of sad. It makes you realize that we need more wigs. More funny voices. More fun. And much, much more often.

I miss funny. I miss laughing the way my kids laugh all the time.

Funny is hard to come by. Has been for years. Comedic humor on TV has been edgy. Raw. Ironic. Don't get the joke? Don't tune in, sorry! The news, too, is grim, especially if it's what you do for a living. There is no room for an easy belly laugh anymore.

We need more belly laughs.

It had been a long day at work for me and for my husband when Grandma came by. She was doing us a solid; we were hoping to avoid showing up at a Halloween party this weekend like burned-out buzzkill parents wearing zero costumes.

Dinner was over and I was digging through a mountain of dirty pots and dishes in the kitchen. In the distance, in another room, I began to hear a man's muttering voice. Laughter trailed the deep mumbler as he approached the refrigerator.

My husband came in, but I ignored him. I was clearing piles of kielbasa, rice, and dirty plates. He was pacing behind me. Mumbling. I spotted the long hair dangling from his head and attached to a red cap. The guy normally has a thinning blond buzz and blue eyes. I froze, amazed to realize that my husband now looked like what we used to call a "Hammer" back at Upper Darby High School. He kept talking about wanting to go to a place that sold beer and wings.

It was so funny I almost didn't recognize the laughter coming out of me.

I ditched the dishes. Went to the living room. Our boys, one almost 6 and the other 4, were laughing and hopping around. Dad was now donning a short brown wig. He contorted his face and began stammering like the late, great comedian Charles Nelson Reilly. The boys were wearing silver tiaras, a gold crown, animal tails, pirate wigs. I sat down and watched the show. Grandma reached into a plastic garbage bag and tossed me a skunk hat.

"Wear this, and this mask, and pin the tail on a black dress and you're set," she told me.

I turned my head back toward the dining room and saw my husband now in a gorgeous long, curly blond wig. He was playing with voices that alternated from Michael McKean in Spinal Tap to 18th-Century Aristocrat — sans perfumed hankie.

But it was the boys who really made the mother in me stop and think. They were so stoked that Daddy had dropped his Serious Parent Persona.  Daddy was acting just like they do when watching cartoons. They laughed along with him, with each wig that went onto his noggin.

You hope your life turns into more than the sum of your struggles. You happen upon moments like these and worry that you're forgetting everything but the struggle. You realize you need more laughter. It's the only way.