- “You know how much me yuv pink!”
- “Me foosey!” (thirsty)
- “Me want a donut and Barbie!”
- “Where da skizzers an da sticky tape?!”
- “Me like lollipops tooooooo much!”
- “Me want all da toys me seen on TP yestehday!”
- “Me only ticklish everywhere!”
- “Tushies are stinky!”
- “Me want to win!”
- “Me want to be pretty yike a unicorn!”
Back in the day, my father liked to introduce my sister and me as the smart one and the pretty one. He never said who was which. My sister and I argued about it for decades. Neither of us wants to be the smart one.
My father was a natural comedian whose favorite form of humor was anything that mortified his children. He’d play with words, or toss ethnic (Jewish) jokes and cringe humor into conversations for the sole purpose of embarrassing me. Dark comedy and gallows humor was his particular favorite. A few hours before he passed away from cancer in the hospital he still made wisecracks and told my sister to “go to the nurse’s station and find out what time people die around here.” I’m certain my insurance salesman father missed his calling.
Comedy is important in our family. Our personal currency increases when we make each other laugh. My brother is great at physical humor, my three nieces are sarcastic and ironic to perfection. My nephews make clever observational humor, and my kids crack me up on a daily basis without even trying. We don’t make jokes that are mean spirited or insulting. Nobody gets their feelings hurt or is put on the defensive. We are mostly self-deprecating or point out daily absurdities. I think it takes a certain amount of intelligence and self-esteem to be funny, and the ability to slip into the third person. Plus we are excellent laughers. I absolutely love being around my siblings and their families.
My mother wasn’t funny, though. At least I don’t remember her that way. She rarely cracked jokes or found things ironic. She was beautiful, so her personal currency was her looks and assertiveness. But, boy oh boy, could my father make her laugh. She burst out a belly laugh if my father tripped, she smiled and rolled her eyes at his corny puns, but the best part was he could make her laugh when she didn’t want to. One time, my mother was arrested (for disrespecting an officer and then resisting arrest, which she totally did) and my father went to the station to get her. He approached the cell, and with the protection of her behind bars said, “Again, Elaine?” (He would never have said this if she was within swinging range.) Only my dad could come up with a punchline this brilliant at a moment like this. My mother couldn’t help but laugh.
My father was lean and fit from years of doing his own yard work. His eyes reflected his mischievousness. He seemed like he was up to something. He exuded cool. But he wasn’t classically handsome. He looked like Larry Fine when The Stooge wasn’t in character, or maybe a version of Bob Uecker. He’d say about himself, “If you’re going to have a nose, it should be a big one.” When I was a teenager I didn’t understand why my mother, who looked like Natalie Wood and could have married anyone, chose my dad.
She said my father was the nicest and funniest man she ever met. Nice and funny — two qualities that are very underrated. People look for wealthy, handsome or successful. Nice and funny usually lands someone in the friend zone, and oddly it was my mom who wound up spending time there. Growing up, my dad was best friends with her older brother and my mom was the annoying younger sister who hung around them. He didn’t pay her much attention until he returned from WW2 and realized she had grown up. He continued to hang around the house, but with the purpose of making my mother laugh. It didn’t take long for them to fall in love.
I love this story because it reminds me that my parents had no pretense about one another when they got married. They knew each other well, and loved one another for their heart and not their surface. Their marriage lasted ’till death did them part — not that my parents didn’t fight — they did, but they fought with the passion and security of two people who knew they would never separate.
Which is the same way I fight with my husband.
Had my parents ever met my husband, a comedy writer who worked in film and television and now teaches at a large university, I’m pretty sure my dad would have liked him. My mom, on the other hand, would have been slow to warm up since he’s from a different ethnic background (not Jewish, but she’d eventually realize he’s “Jewish on the inside,” as I sometimes describe him).
But here’s the important thing — every day my husband makes me laugh, even on days I don’t want to, or when I’m so angry that I can’t stand him. Also, he laughs at my jokes, and when he does I feel appreciated and understood. In these moments, I remember I married a man who truly “gets” me.
I wound up marrying the nicest and funniest man I ever met, but (thankfully) looks nothing like Larry Fine.
I guess that makes me the smart one.
- Breast Cancer
- Normal Stress
- Abnormal Stress
- Seasonal Allergies
- The Art of Arguing Respectfully
- How to Stick to the Point
- Writing an Effective Complaint Letter
- Understanding and Interpreting the News
- Texting as a Second Language
- Survey of Outdated Life Skills: Cursive, Telling Time, Tying Shoes, Reading a Map
- Listening Skills 101
- Staying Sane in an Overstimulating World
- The Art of Detaching from Toxic Energy Suckers
- Assertion 101
Used vehicle, one owner. 50K miles. Needs body work. Some rust. Runs good. All scheduled maintenance performed. Above base model trim level but not fully loaded. Good fuel economy. Some original factory parts missing, others replaced/repaired/upgraded. Fabric worn and faded. Entertainment package has AM/FM stereo cassette, CD/DVD. Has airbags, alarms and automatic warning system. Non-smoker. One accident. Garage kept. Good GPS. Big trunk. Spoiler. Solid and reliable. Great for a busy family. As is. No warranty.
I live in what is arguably the most quaint, picture-perfect town in America. We are so adorable that when Hollywood needed to shoot a movie that took place in a camera-ready small town, they chose our town. In the middle of everything we have a square dating back about a hundred and fifty years that is now lined with specialty restaurants, boutiques and well-stocked gift shops.
I like it here a lot more than I thought I would, and everyone who knows me is surprised. I previously lived in two major cities where I ordered take-out, walked to go shopping and spent a lot of time stuck in traffic. Now I live near pastures, I cook, and the closest Target is twenty-five minutes away. It turns out I like having a lot of distance between me and everything else, and country living provides that.
My husband grew up here, which is why we wound up living in this one-Panera town. It’s the kind of place where people spend their whole lives. Everyone knows everyone — or they know someone who knows everyone — and that one person who knows everyone is my mother-in-law. Forty years of living here has made her and my father-in-law into unofficial ambassadors and local treasures.
My husband and I can never argue in the parking lot of the grocery store or it will travel back to my mother-in-law like some country knock-off of TMZ where she’s a seventy-five year-old chipper blonde version of Harvey Levin. It’s enough to make me paranoid when I go out in public. I once yelled at my son at the Piggly Wiggly then looked up to see three people who knew me. I said to my husband that his family is so well-known and visible in these parts it’s like marrying into the local Kennedys, to which he replied, “Yes, if the Kennedys were poor and dumb.”
My mother-in-law did not appreciate his self deprecating joke. Mostly because the Kennedys are Democrats and she’s not, but she was also annoyed by the poor and dumb part. Let me be clear: she is neither. “It’s only compared to the Kennedys,” my husband explained. “Everyone is poor and dumb next to them.”
I’m not saying we’re hot stuff around here. Maybe tepid stuff. But since our little family arrived a few years ago we’ve contributed to the local flair. For instance, we practically doubled the Jewish population thanks to me and the kids. Every year on Hanukkah my son brings his classmates handfuls of chocolate coins and they love them. However, our other notoriety comes from being one of two families who lost a child to a rare form of brain cancer. When someone makes eye contact and smiles at me at the store it’s sometimes difficult to figure out the context of the greeting. I don’t know if they nod because they feel sorry for me or because they like me. I hate thinking they know me as the mom who lost her son. I like being known as the Jewish mom of the kid with the chocolates.
But I absolutely love being a poor dumb Kennedy.