The following is a scene that was deleted from the published version of Here Lies Memory. (This is part of the writer's cut of the novel and is given to you as a Christmas gift.)
The Street Elder called laughter the one true gift God gave to men and women.
“No child knows how important it is to let her mother hear her laughing, not until that child becomes a mother herself,” she told Sylvia. “No child can ever know what a child’s laughter does to a mother’s heart. You got to know how much power there is in laughter. Before that, when a woman’s still but a child, she thinks that laughter is just laughter. Just a sound. Nothing more. When you’re a child, after it’s been hot day after day after day, hot so many days you think it’s never going to be nothing but hot, your skin suffering for rain, and when you do finally hear that first rain of summer, you run yourself outside as fast as you can. You don’t think about it. You just push open that screen door and let it be banging shut behind you, your mother be yelling ‘don’t let that door bang like that,’ but you don’t pay her no never mind, because you running down the steps of your stoop, you leaping off that top stoop.
You run barefoot out there into the world and into the rain, those big drops of rain splashing on the sidewalk, and when you get out there in that falling rain, and you feel that hot concrete turning cold under the soles of your feet, you dance, child. Don’t matter how old you are. How young. Don’t matter what no one thinks of you doing that. You sing. You dance. Everything else disappears. That moment you throw your hands up into the sky. That’s when you’re eternal. Don’t you let anyone take that from you, and don’t you never forget that moment. Never.
“The world will try to take it from you, but you don’t never forget throwing your arms open to the falling rain and dancing barefoot on that sidewalk and laughing so loud your mother heard you all the way around the back of the house in the kitchen. She heard you even with all the windows closed. You don’t ever forget how you felt doing that, because that is what life is. That is all life is. Everything else you do in your life is for other people. You get a job. You go to school. You’re doing that for them. You’re obeying what you have to obey to get on in the world. But this? This you’re doing out there in that rain, this you’re doing for your own life. This you’re doing to create your life. This dancing, getting your skin all wet in the rain, you’re doing this because you’re loving your life. You’re not doing it because you were told to do it or for some reward, for someone to say ‘good job’ and all that; you’re doing this because you’re doing it. It’s that simple. And that’s why it matters more than all the other shit you ever do in your life, because this you’re doing to simply do it. And that is all that life is, child. This this. Do this. Do what you love to be doing. And when the creeps try to convince you to stop it. You just dance. You dance right there in front of them. And you fill your lungs with laughter.
“And that laughter your mother hear you doing out there. That’s the truest gift you ever give her, even when she’s calling you a fool and saying you’re going to catch your death of cold. That’s just a mother’s way of thanking a child for laughing. ‘Cause the best way to ever thank a mother for the life she gives you is not by simply saying thank you, but by laughing, by bursts of laughter. That’s a true thank you to your mother for her bringing you into this world. She’s grateful you’re living a life that allows you to laugh. She’s grateful you feel safe enough to laugh. And when you grow up and you get that job and you doing all this and that with your life, you best never quit living the life you want to be living. ‘Cause everyone out there is bent on destroying you. Don’t you let those creeps win, Sylvia. Don’t.”
The Street Elder’s smile, weary as it was, warmed Sylvia’s heart. She trusted the Street Elder. Her smile, her laughter, was never innocent of her life. Ruins and mysteries marked her laughter. The Street Elder had lived, and she was still living, and all of her living was in her laughter and in her smile. Inside laughter you can hear the whole of a person’s soul waking up, you hear the life story of the person’s soul and you hear that person’s soul growing.
The Street Elder reached down to rest her hand on Pete’s shoulder. Pete looked up at her. “You tell a child to be still, to sit and be quiet, and they look at you like you from some other planet. They give you that look like ‘Ain’t you never been a child?’ Child knows that talk is crazy talk. And fool parents all proud when the child obeys. You think a child is good because that child is obeying you. That’s not good. That’s something else entirely, and what that is harms that child more than you ever imagine it could, unless you look yourself in the mirror and see that harm inside you. That’s just proper behavior—all sweet and quiet—that ain’t got a thing to do with being good. You’d think a child running through the house is the demon incarnate, come to destroy the world. Like a child running through a house is going to make the walls fall down, wear out the carpet, and have everything in the house come tumbling down.”
You tell that child that you’re only doing what you’re doing to protect her from herself, you’re doing what is best for her, when what you’re really doing is protecting yourself from remembering what it like to be alive and living and not so afraid. It’s not best for that child. Never was. And that child dancing like that, she’s teaching you that you ain’t been living, you just been going to work and kissing your wife and taking out the garbage and watching the television. You been doing that each day, instead of living. Because living frightens you. Living can hurt you. When that child is exhausted and riven by the joy in her muscle and her feet all callused and sore, she don’t stop there, because she knows she’s now about to enter the holy place. Child’s not afraid. You’re afraid."