To make you laugh…
An acquaintance pointed out to me that part of the motto of this blog is “…make you laugh”. But recently, very few of my essays have been amusing.
She was right, of course. And (also of course) it’s mostly because since the advent of Covid-19, I’ve found very little to laugh about, either worldwide or personally.
Or have I? My friend’s remarks set me thinking about my grandmothers, Marie Gregory and Mayme Snoddy. As I pointed out in the post, Clickbait, my grandmothers laughed easily and often. Laughter was their finely-honed survival skill.
Of the two of them, though, Grandma Marie was the better–th best–storyteller, and never more so than when she was telling tales upon herself. I related many of these in The Stories Grandma Told, but she had dozens of entertaining sagas. I now regret having never recorded them, but here are just a few more of her lighthearted tales.
Despite the fact that she lived a long life, surviving the majority of her peers, Grandma held no reverence whatever toward the common rituals associated with death—although she never missed a funeral! But her eyesight was failing, and more than once she once called me to request that I drive her to a funeral calling. “I need a ride,” she would announce, adding casually (and always to my utter shock), “I have to go look at a stiff.”
Late in her long life, Grandma’s not-so-secret vice was playing the horses. All winter long she would hoard quarters, plopping her stockpile into her biggest “potchit” (pocketbook). Come springtime, she would head out to the track and use those quarters to liberally place two-dollar bets on any horse that took her fancy. Grandma never won much, but she enjoyed the whole process immensely.
What drove her to madness, though, were the friends who didn’t understand that a two-dollar bet was the minimum one could place. She would be besieged by those who handed her a dollar with instructions to “put it on a good horse for me”. “So,” she’d fuss bitterly, “I have to make up the difference! And they never win anything, so I don’t even get my buck back!”
Those quarters once proved her downfall, though. Grandma and some of her cronies met monthly for an inexpensive restaurant meal. At one of these get-togethers, conversation drifted around to the mixed drinks that everyone had enjoyed in their youth. Grandma and another friend fondly recalled apricot sours. Out of the blue, they each decided to order one.
The drinks came and were duly enjoyed. Later, to everyone’s consternation, a single bill was presented to the entire table. And that was the moment when Grandma discovered that she had left the house with the wrong pocketbook. Scarlet with embarrassment, she realized she didn’t have her wallet. She was going to have to pay for both her dinner and her apricot sour in nothing but coins.
The pre-calculator generation, too polite to belatedly ask that checks be separated, were scratching their heads to figure out the divvy. Those two apricot sours, though, had greatly increased both the tax and the tip. So Grandma was able to partially redeem her situation by offering to pay the entire tax and a generous tip, while the others split the rest of the check. She escaped the restaurant with her dignity partially intact, leaving a gigantic mound of quarters on the table to tip their server.
That story led her to also remember one from years earlier, when she, as a young working woman, met her girlfriends for lunch. They’d gotten together one Monday after her weekend spent in the great outdoors…when she’d been bitten by chiggers. In a Very Private Place. Itching unbearably after sitting for an hour, on leaving the restaurant she’d ordered her girlfriends to circle the wagons and then, hidden, but to their horror, walked splayed-legged down the city sidewalk, hiking up her dress and scratching madly to relieve the bites.
But perhaps my favorite story was one from the last few years of her life. Never one to suffer fools gladly, Grandma always had a ready retort on her lips. On this occasion, she was backing her huge yacht of a car from a parking space when two foolish teenage girls, blithely unaware, strolled directly behind her. Grandma stomped the brakes and narrowly missed hitting the imbeciles, who then took great offense, one yelling, “Watch what you’re doing, you old chicken neck!”
Once they’d passed, Grandma pulled out into the lane, came level with them, stopped, rolled down the window, and snapped back, “Oh, back up to a mirror and look at your own fat ass!” Then, chuckling, she drove coolly away.
I was shaken to my core when Grandma left this life, finding it hard to believe that such a vital, bold, sassy matriarch had passed. But I knew what she would have wanted, so, at her funeral, I squared my shoulders and marched up to her coffin, where I whispered, “Oh, Grandma, look what you’ve gone and done to me!” Then I listened for her laughter as, tears sparkling, I finished: “I have to go look at a stiff.”
If you had a good chuckle from this essay, you might also enjoy “The Stories Grandma Told”, which you can locate in the Archives, below, from March 31, 2021.