Anne Brown circa 1940"s
My mom … no mistaking the mischief in her eyes even at 4 or 5 years of age.

“That’s not funny.”

Guess I’ve heard this a time or two dozen from my daughters.  They’ve endured a lot at the hands of my brand of humor.  I think they hope I’ll mellow with age, but I think it’s getting worse.  For instance, a few months ago I read where someone randomly sent a text to a friend saying, “I’ve hid the body, now what?” HaHa!  Sounded funny to me, so I sent Molly (my oldest) this very message, then waited.

Bzzzzz. “What are you talking about?”

Me. “Oops. Wrong number. Just ignore that, okay. And please, erase the message.”

All was quiet for a few minutes.

Bzzzzz. “Mom. PLEASE tell me that you didn’t kill someone … Unless it was the dog. “. (We all hate the dog … that’s another story, though.)

I didn’t answer.

Bzzzzz. “MOM!”

I didn’t answer.

My phone lit up with a call.

“Mom, what on earth is going on?”

I giggled uncontrollably. (Not very becoming for a 50-year-old.) “Didn’t you see the suggestion online?  I think it was on Facebook.”

“No.”  Ice cold voice. “You mean it was a joke?”

“Like I would kill someone?”

“Of course not … Although I did hope you might be talking about the dog. And by the way … None of it was funny.” She hung up.

(Quick side note for my animal-loving friends, we don’t truly hate the dog, but he caused some great trauma in our family and pushed us all to the limit with his antics … but again, that’s another story.)

Sadly, that’s not the first time my humor didn’t go over well with Molly. One time (she was about 10 at the time) I tried to surprise her by hiding under a big comforter on her bed.  Unfortunately, she ran in and jumped up to fix a picture on her wall, pinning me under the blanket. I ended up scaring her to tears when she realized that there was a person under the covers.  Once she could talk again, she implored, through choking sobs, “You know that wasn’t even close to funny, right?”

I hated that I scared her, but, honestly, I did think it was funny. We’ve tried to steer from humor that belittles each other, but we are a flawed, often silly, family that likes to laugh together, a generational trait that I attribute to my mother.

Twenty years younger than my dad, Mom often made Lucy (I love Lucy) look tame.  One of my earliest, clear memories is a mind’s-eye video of her packing lunches for my dad and older brother.  Baloney was the sandwich of the day, but instead of pulling the package of meat (if that’s really what baloney is) from the fridge, she started cutting round circles out of salmon colored construction paper.  Coating each slice of Wonder Bread with mayonnaise and mustard, she then piled on lettuce and the paper rounds, letting them stick just slightly from the top.  “What …?”  I asked.  She winked and put a finger to her lips. “April Fool’s,” she whispered.

I waited anxiously for Dad to return from work that night.  Handing Mom his silver lunch pail, he simply said, “Good thing I wasn’t very hungry today.”  I thought this might mean he was mad, but a twinkle in his eyes gave me peace.

My big brother didn’t see the joke in it.  “Not funny,” he complained.  (Sound familiar?)  “Ugh! All I had was chips and an apple.”

Dad was both the brunt and benefactor of many of Mom’s jokes.  Raised during the Great Depression, he took providing for his family quite seriously.  I think he recognized that Mom kept him youthful, but sometimes she exasperated him.  One such infamous, soon-to-be-family-story, occurred during an economic downturn in the late 1970’s.  More penny-pinching-conscious than ever, Dad lectured the four of us kids about our wastefulness, especially when it came to household staples like toilet paper.

“You need to be more careful,” he demanded.  “If you kids keep going through this stuff so fast, we’ll have to resort to the way it was for me as a kid.”  To make his point (and display a bit of humor himself) he hung up an old corncob in the bathroom next to the toilet paper dispenser.

Thinking that Dad’s humor was an invitation for more of the same, Mom huddled us together and whispered a plan. We waited for a day when Dad worked busily in his home office, consuming bottomless cups of coffee along the way.  Knowing that trips to the bathroom would be frequent, my older brother quickly melted some chocolate on the stove top.  Choking on whispered giggles as they tip-toed into the bathroom, he and my sister, coated the corn cob with the chocolate and then raced to the living room with Mom, me, and my youngest brother.

We waited.

And waited.

When had Dad’s bladder ever endured this long?

Finally!  He strolled into the kitchen, rinsed his coffee cup, refilled it, and set it on the counter to cool.  He walked to the bathroom.  The light clicked on.  The door eeked shut.

We waited.

The door flung open, the handle banging into the wall.  Three fast steps across the kitchen floor.  He didn’t even come into the room where we were, but called out in stern baritone.

“I don’t know who did this, but it’s not funny.”  (There we go again.)  “I expect you to get in there right now and clean it up.”  Muttering under his breath as he stormed back into his office, cup of coffee forgotten on the counter, he added, “And they even got it on the light switch.  Disgusting!”

Mom’s laughter was the convulsing, tear-producing kind.  “He doesn’t know it was chocolate!”  This was far better than the fake baloney sandwich any day!

These antics weren’t reserved only for us.  One year, Mom brought Halloween to the neighborhood – in July!  Having come across an old sheet with two rips in the perfect spots, she draped the white fabric over her head and tied a rope around her waste.  She then stood in front of our neighbor’s huge picture window, waiting for her to turn her gaze from the the soap opera on TV.  It was only 4:00 in the afternoon, but Mrs. Thompson screamed like it was midnight at a cemetery when she turned to see why the hairs had begun to raise on the back of her head.

I have no polished ending for this blog, just the hint that there are more antics to come because I was raised on some of the best stock of quirkiness that exists.  So watch out daughters of mine, I’m on the look out for more memory-making moments, just like Grandma’s … and that’s not even funny.