Awkward moments always produce the funniest memories.
Many of the ones I treasure feature my parents… and in most of them, she does something to deflate his pomposity. I still can’t walk into a particular bookstore without remembering one day when they were there together. He was afflicted with a sudden and most audible attack of gas, which manifested itself in successive, regularly spaced explosions. There was no way his ego would let him acknowledge what was happening, so he stood up as straight as he could, and tried to walk out of the store with a stony face.
You think she was going to let him get away with that?
She doubled over in laughter…good, loud belly laughter almost as noisy as the military tattoo he was performing. Tears bounced off her cheeks, as she pointed to him in merriment. If anyone in the store had missed what he was going through, there was no way they could ignore what she was up to, and as you know, laughter is contagious.
As he exited the store, he really should have taken a bow. He cheered up a lot of people that day.
She got her comeuppance one day at Port Authority in New York, when she spotted a particularly weird denizen of the City. Mom was never good at avoiding eye contact; when you caught her attention, you knew you were being inspected. The object of her scrutiny did not appreciate this at all; she walked over to Mom, took a large leather satchel from her shopping cart, and proceeded to beat Mom upside the head, over and over.
Did my father come to her rescue?
Hell, no. He was doubled over in laughter. He knew she wasn’t being hurt, and perhaps he hoped she was learning her lesson.
She never did, of course.
I remember the Christmas party at Mom’s house when my mother-in-law showed up with her new boyfriend, Jerry (whom my husband called “The Gerbil”). He was her first serious suitor after my father-in-law died, and even if he hadn’t had enormous shoes to fill, none of us would have liked him. We thought he was an ugly, gangly, boring, blathering old codger who wore ill-fitting polyester suits and a rug that kept threatening to fly back to Aladdin.
We were all in the kitchen gabbing, and suddenly, this man decided to walk into the dining room. A birdcage hung in the archway between the two rooms, and instead of walking around it, he tried to go under it.
He walked on ahead, but his toupee didn’t.
Would you have wanted to unhook that thing from the bottom of the birdcage?
Mom had to run out of the room before she wet her pants; my mother-in-law tried to extricate the damn rug with some dignity, but even she couldn’t keep a straight face.
The Gerbil put the damn thing back on and continued prattling as though nothing had happened.
My mother-in-law, by the way, provided us with some truly choice awkward moments throughout the years, and long after they ceased causing us any embarrassment, they continued to give us mirth.
There was the time I was working for a clothes manufacturer, and I received an invitation to a closed sale at one of their outlet stores. Of course I brought her; the woman adored clothing. I let her shop around as I sat around chatting with colleagues, not noticing as I lost track of her.
Suddenly, I hear her very distinctive voice calling out to me from the general area of the dressing rooms. “Honey, is this blouse too tight on me?”
I turned my head, as did everyone within earshot. She was standing in front of the dressing rooms, wearing a very pretty blouse… and no pants.
“Ma! Go put some clothes on!” I yelled!
She looked at her legs and said, “What’s the big deal? I’m wearing stockings and we’re here with your friends.”
They weren’t friends… they were co-workers… and she was wearing stockings, but no panties. I honestly expected to get a note from HR, but luckily, there were no repercussions.
Then there was the time she was sitting in front of me on a plane. She turned around to tell me she’d gone to get her nether regions waxed, and had opted for a poodle cut. I was sitting with my daughter; she was sitting next to a gentleman who sprayed his drink all over the seat in front of him.
I loved that woman… and needless to say, I love her grandchildren. One of them definitely inherited her gift for speaking before thinking.
This manifested itself very early. I remember picking him up from preschool one day, and finding his very young, somewhat inexperienced teacher quite perturbed.
“I think I should warn you that you may be hearing from some of the other parents,” she said.
“What happened?” I asked.
“We’ve been learning the alphabet, and every day, when I introduce the letter of the day, I ask the children if they know of a word that starts with that letter. Today, I asked ‘does anyone know an F word?’ Alex’s hand shot up, and of course, he said, “F*ck!”
All the other kids nodded in agreement and proceeded to echo him. “Yes, F*ck!” “That’s right, F*ck!”
That was my boy. Foul-mouthed and disruptive, but by golly, able to spell!
One of my funniest and most poignant memories involves him sitting at my mother-in-law’s house the day she lost her second husband (thankfully, not the Gerbil). This man had really been the only grandfather my son had known; they were very close and Alex was inconsolable. At one moment, she went over to him and hugged him, and Alex started crying even harder. He looked into her eyes, put his hand on her cheek, and said, “Oh, Grandma! Who are you going to marry next?”
There are hundreds of stories like this in the family lore, and I’m grateful for each and every one of them. Each one is the product of a truly mortifying experience, and teaches a very valuable lesson: that which doesn’t kill you eventually cracks you up.