Humor in the Family | Growing up Funny

Inspiration

To begin with, I must credit the idea for this hub to Larry Rankin, a fellow hub pages author, who wrote about funny things parents tell their kids, and funny tricks that can be played as a device for teaching the kids either a serious lesson or to develop a sense of humor.

Often as not, both can be accomplished together. Some of the funny traditions he mentions are pretty widely seen throughout our (North American) culture, such as warnings about what will happen to you should you swallow chewing gum or fruit seeds. We've all heard those implausible stories, right?

But moving on, from his point of inspiration, I must now share some of our family's cherished pranks. Some were a fond tradition; others were a one-off on the spur of the moment.

Humor at Every Turn

You might say I have a warped sense of humor. Blame my parents. They both had a deeply ingrained mischievous streak.

I recall a story that my folks used to relate from way back when I was a baby, and most likely down for a nap. My father was a very good mechanic, both with working on cars and engines, and even to the point of being able to craft a specialized tool if he needed something unusual. That was his hobby; his avocation. But, by trade, he was also a mechanic. He worked his day job repairing aircraft cockpit instruments, and that required knowledge of precision measuring and use of specialized tools.

It happened that on this particular day, Dad was messing about tinkering with something on the car--the one he had bought from his brother shortly after my birth. It was a troublesome vehicle, and he was always fixing something.

At any rate, he had been using a funnel, and then needed to go over to the wash trays and rinse a container or wash his hands. Just then, my mother happened to come downstairs, probably to check on laundry, and spied the funnel Dad had stuck into the hip pocket of his coveralls. It was too much to resist. Mom snuck into the guest bathroom, filled a small cup with water, and yep, poured it right into the funnel!

Ah, to have been a fly on the wall and witness the reaction first-hand! This is but one of many fond, funny memories I have of growing up.

Dad was a great storyteller, and I begged him to tell his stories over and over; it is the reason I have such good recall of things that happened well before my time.

Even the Accidents Became Funny Stories

When I was approaching my teen years, I was fully sick and tired of the color my parents had chosen for my bedroom: yellow with gray trim. Yuck! I suppose they wanted a gender-neutral color scheme, as back then, you had no idea of the baby's sex until it was born. But I hated the colors. I don't mind yellow, but I hated the gray.

Anyway, I decided I wanted a pink room with white trim. All well and good, and the paint was bought. Of course, before painting, the paint had to be stirred, so downstairs to the garage it had to go. I wanted to carry it, by my mother declined, saying that it was heavy, and I might drop it.


Pink paint forever
Pink paint forever

Famous last words! Scarce were the words out of her mouth, when the paint can slipped from her grasp, and somersaulted all the way down the steps, popping open on its way. Pink paint adorned every tread and riser, the walls, the banister and the bottom landing. I cried and hollered, and was nearly inconsolable. We mopped up as much of the mess as possible, but I'm here to tell you; that stairwell bore pink paint spatters for the next 40 years!

Of course, the paint was replaced, and I got my pink room. But my mother never lived it down. Every time she would go to tell me to 'be careful' about anything--to the day she died--I'd have to reply, "Yeah...and who dropped the paint?"

Beware the fanciest-wrapped gift
Beware the fanciest-wrapped gift

Holiday Pranks

Christmas was always fun. We were not a religious family, but we enjoyed decorating the tree, family parties, and seeing the children open their gifts. Well, at least when we were visiting at the time. At home, it was just me and the folks, for I am an only child.

My dad, however, exercising his own wicked streak of humor, developed what became a tradition: the outrageous gag gift. Every single year, you could count on he and my mother exchanging some ridiculous and useless item.

One year, my father carefully and beautifully wrapped a box containing old curtains that had been fished from the rag bag.

The year my father retired, my mom wrapped up a set of tires from a toy car. "Here's so you can re-tire."

Another time it was a box of logs. When I became of an age that I could appreciate this kind of fun instead of being puzzled and hurt at getting a 'weird and useless' gift, I was on the receiving end a few times.

The tradition has carried on with my kids, though these days it mostly takes the form of a circulating lump of coal, gifted to the family member deemed to have been 'most naughty' throughout the year. The question is always, "Who will get the coal this year?

"Beware the fanciest-wrapped present, for it is likely to contain the gag gift!"

— Liz Elias

April Fool!

This date of course is famous for pranking people, and my family was no exception.

Some pranks are funnier than others, as I learned early on. When I was about eight years old, I found it hilarious, (but my mother was not quite so amused) when I dumped the contents of the sugar bowl back into the canister, and refilled the sugar bowl with salt. Funny, but she didn't care much for her coffee that morning.

My father got me good one year. I had just graduated from high school, and was looking for my first job. I came home from an errand, and Dad gave me a phone message, that I was to call this number, and ask for "Mr. Lamb."

"Mr. Lamb"
"Mr. Lamb"

I called, and was told that there was no such person there. I was miffed. Dad must have written down the wrong number. I confronted him, and he burst out laughing. I had completely missed, and not paid enough attention to how the phone had been answered: "American Wool Growers Association..." That ended up as a double-prank, as I'm sure the people there thought I was the prankster. Indeed--Dad probably set it up that way on purpose.

A nutritious breakfast?
A nutritious breakfast?

My personal best prank though, was played on my own kids when they were quite young. Older than toddlers, with one barely kindergarten age, as I recall. They had their own little kid-sized table in the dining area.

This one April First, I called them out for breakfast, and there on their table, all laid out and ready to eat: toast, a fried egg, and a banana. ...... All cut out from construction paper! They gave me a very odd, almost pained look, at which point I cried out the obligatory, "April Fool!" and served them their real breakfast. It remains a talking point to this day; and that's a long time, for I now have grandchildren, some of whom are adults themselves.

The Left-Handed Compliment

This is an expression that may not be in wide use, but it refers to telling someone 'good job' or other praise, without actually using positive words, but coming at it from the backside, as it were, pretending to scold or complain. It's rather a form of sarcasm.

The one that sticks in my mind most, happened well after my dad had retired, and I had married and had kids of my own. Dad had decided to go out and buy a radial arm saw. That is a table or bench-mounted saw, the blade of which can be pulled forward on a stationary arm, cutting through lumber that is held on the table. This one had its own stand and table, and was on wheels, for there was no place to mount it permanently in his shop.

This particular day, Dad was trying to trim an inch off the hallway doors, as new carpet had been laid, and it was too thick to allow the doors to close. So, off the hinges, and down to the shop they went. I was helping him, as the length of the door was too much weight to be just hanging off the saw table. He clamped on the guide, and was ready to start the saw, when I noticed that the position of the clamp would interfere with the full passage of the door across the table.

Ka-pow!!  Gotcha!
Ka-pow!! Gotcha!


Dad looked at it for a moment, realized I was right, but couldn't quite admit that directly, so instead he said, "You want a punch in the nose for being smarter than your father?"

We both had a good laugh, and I've enjoyed the memory these many years since.

An Adult Wedding Joke

No naughty words; I promise. Only your imagination is needed. My mother told me this joke about the time I got married, and was thereby deemed "old enough" to know about such things.

It seems a dentist got married, and his buddies had a fine time playing all sorts of the usual wedding pranks.

When he caught up with them after the honeymoon, he said, "Okay, the cans on the back of the car were fine. The rice in the bed was fine. The salt on the pillows was fine. But...I'm going to kill the S.O.B. who put novocaine in the vaseline!"

Wedding Pranks

Way back in the old days, marrying couples would be 'treated' to an embarrassing ritual known as a "shivaree;' a noisy celebration of horns, pots and pans banged together, along with hooting and hollering, often right outside the bedroom window of the newly married couple at about the hour it would be expected they would turn in for the night.

As far as I know, such antics are no longer practiced, but plenty of other wedding traditions meant to prank the new couple remain. These range from the obligatory streamers, tin cans and old shoes tied to the bumper of the post-ceremony vehicle, to jokes played with their bedding.

Since my parents married during wartime, a few months prior to the end of WWII in July of 1945, there would be no honeymoon trip. My father already was buying the house in which I would grow up, so they just stayed home; even the wedding ceremony and reception was in the house. Perhaps they went out to dinner; I don't know. I'm guessing they had to be away from the house at some point for my father's siblings to prank them as they did, with a funny outcome much later.

Since the siblings did not know which of the bedrooms they were going to use, they gave "the treatment" to both: salt and rice liberally sprinkled between the sheets. When the folks went to turn in for the night, they discovered this, had a good laugh, then got out the vacuum cleaner and took care of it, and went to bed. They never gave it another thought.

Not until quite some time later, at which point a spinster cousin came to visit, and slept in the guest room. In the morning, she stated, "Well, I was a bride last night." To my parents' quizzical expressions, she replied, "When I turned back the covers, the sheets were full of salt and rice."

My parents apologized profusely, figured out what had happened, but having had no reason to check the guest room, the prank had stayed in place those long months--maybe a year or more. The cousin was their first guest.

My mother said, "Oh, you should have said something! We'd have vacuumed it out for you." Cousin Evelyn said, "Nah, I was too tired; I just cleared myself a path and climbed in and went to sleep." She was a Navy nurse, visiting on leave, and had probably slept in worse conditions, so she merely thought it was funny.

Photo Credits

All photos by Pixabay; some have been modified.

© 2015 DzyMsLizzy

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Comments 26 comments

bravewarrior profile image

bravewarrior 16 months ago from Central Florida

You must have had so much fun growing up in a household that made everyday a mystery laced with humor, Liz.

My mom and her brothers and sisters have wonderful senses of humor. I grew up laughing and I still laugh. When my mom and I talk we always end up making each other laugh somehow. Same when my brother and sister and I talk.

I remember one Christmas when I was in high school my dad presented my mom with a HUGE box. I mean furniture-size huge. As she opened it, she discovered another box. And another. And another until she finally got to the bottom and found a teeny tiny jewelry-sized box, beautifully wrapped. I don't remember what was in it but I'm sure it was jewelry. Anyway, by the time she got to the real present we were all laughing so hard our tummies hurt.

I'm so glad I grew up in a family who loves to laugh!


billybuc profile image

billybuc 16 months ago from Olympia, WA

Totally enjoyable, Liz. I grew up in a funny family as well. My memories of childhood are all good. I was lucky for sure.


drbj profile image

drbj 16 months ago from south Florida

I would not be surprised, Liz, if one day we learn that humor may be in our genes. How wonderful to grow up in a family with where humor is practiced. I, too, had that advantage since my father was always the 'life of the party' at gatherings due to his always present good humor and joke-telling ability. And my mother, grandmother (who lived with us), sister and I were his most fervent admirers.


Larry Rankin profile image

Larry Rankin 16 months ago from Oklahoma

Wonderfully done. Personally I feel life is dull without the occasional prank. I feel sorry for folks that don't have the sense of humor to enjoy them.

Very enjoyable article.


Blond Logic profile image

Blond Logic 16 months ago from Brazil

It surprises me how many families don't have a shared sense of humor. It is necessary for bonding, I feel.

Thanks for sharing some of your family's humorous moments


DzyMsLizzy profile image

DzyMsLizzy 16 months ago from Oakley, CA Author

Hi, Shauna--That is a hilarious story! I can see my dad doing something like that. In fact, there were a couple of instances of the boxes-within-boxes type of gifts, but never to that extreme. Thanks so much for sharing that story!

Hi, Bill--Thanks for the compliment; I’m glad you enjoyed this romp through my past. Humor is important, and I’m glad you had a fun-filled childhood as well.

Hello there, drbj--You may be correct. It would not surprise me, either. Even a couple of my uncles-by-marriage had great senses of humor. One of these had such a deep belly laugh, that you’d start laughing as well, even if you hadn’t witnessed what made him laugh in the first place.

Hello Larry--Thank you very much; I’m glad you enjoyed my stories. I so agree. Pranks are fun, within reason. These days, though, I’ve seen some prank videos on You Tube and such that are not all that funny--they’re more just cruel, like waking someone up with a frying pan full of firecrackers next to their pillow. Not nice, and dangerous besides. A sense of humor in pranking people also requires common sense.

Hello, Blond Logic--Yes, there do seem to be folks who go through life with a sourpuss face and a grumpy attitude. The old saying, “laughter is the best medicine” holds true for sure. Thanks for stopping by, and I’m glad you enjoyed these tales of silly nonsense.


always exploring profile image

always exploring 16 months ago from Southern Illinois

I like that old cliche, ' The family whe laughs together stays together.' I'm sorry to say that I wasn't brought up in a humorous family, but I do remember my mother's laughter. When she got tickled she would laugh so hard she would lose her breath. My grandpa Rob was a prankster and my grandma Minnie rarely cracked a smile. I guess opposites do attract. lol...Enjoyed your story..Thank you..


MsDora profile image

MsDora 16 months ago from The Caribbean

The incidents in themselves are fun, but I think even more important is the memory you still have and can fall back on when you really need a good-feel moment. Thank you for sharing. I enjoyed them.


DzyMsLizzy profile image

DzyMsLizzy 16 months ago from Oakley, CA Author

Hi, there, always exploring--Oh, dear, sorry you didn't have humor in your upbringing. I sounds like your Uncle Rob would have been a fun person! Thanks much for sharing your experience; I'm most pleased that you liked reading about these incidents.

Hello, MsDora, Yes, you are quite correct; these are all cherished memories, and they do make me smile when I think of them. I'm so glad you enjoyed the tales.


fpherj48 profile image

fpherj48 16 months ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

Dzy.......What wonderful & crazy memories you have and brought back for me as well!

More than anything else, I recall the "laughter" in our home.... Our Dad could reduce my sister and I to rolling on the floor, tears streaming down our cheeks. He had such a natural ability to be funny.

Needless to say my sister and I grew up to appreciate and adopt his priceless sense of humor......Mom was funny now and then, but mostly she would just laugh right along with us.

I'm sure you feel lucky. I certainly do. Wouldn't trade my childhood or my special family for the world!....Great hub, Dzy! UP+++


DzyMsLizzy profile image

DzyMsLizzy 16 months ago from Oakley, CA Author

Hi there, fpherj48,

Sounds like you had a fun upbringing as well. I do feel lucky, and like you, I wouldn't trade it for anything. Not to say my parents had no flaws; we all have them. But they taught me valuable lessons as well.

I'm delighted you enjoyed my crazy stories, and I thank you for the votes!


Bob Bamberg profile image

Bob Bamberg 16 months ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

What a fun read, Liz, and it makes many of us think back to our own childhood. I was the 8th of 9 children so was witness to a lot of weddings. I don't know how it got started, but a tradition was to sabotage the newlyweds' apartment while they were on their honeymoon.

We'd tell the landlord of our plan and never had one refuse. We'd then put flashers in some of the light fixtures, tie bells to the underside of the bed, short-sheet the bed, hide the toilet tissue, change the salt shaker to sugar (and vice versa)...things like that. When I got married, I lived 500 miles from home so never went through that "rite of marriage."

Back in the late 60's, statistically, every 6th child born world-wide was Chinese. Using an article baring such a headline, a friend had her younger brother...the 6th child in the family...convinced for a while that he was Chinese.

I think a lot of folks would have been happy growing up in your parents' household. Sounds like there was never a dull moment. Voted up, funny and interesting.


annart profile image

annart 16 months ago from SW England

It's great to have a family who can laugh with and at themselves.

Your 'left-handed compliment' is what we call a 'back-handed compliment'. That's the third time today I've come across different 'idioms' across the pond! How strange.

Good to have a light-hearted read on a dreary summer's day (we're going through an unusually cold and wet patch for August). Thanks for raising the spirits.

Ann


DzyMsLizzy profile image

DzyMsLizzy 16 months ago from Oakley, CA Author

Hi, Bob!

Oh, that is hilarious--convincing the younger brother of being Chinese! Too funny. As to the marriage pranks, we didn't have any such rituals for various reasons--mostly because everyone was too far-flung, but there is one story that I believe I'll go back and add to this article. It's a bit too long to go into in the comments.

I'm so glad you enjoyed this romp, and I thank your for sharing your own humorous incidents and for the votes.

Hello, Ann!

Yes, being able to laugh with one another, as well as or instead of 'at' one another is a vital tool to growing up into a balanced adult.

How funny that we have a related idiom for the same kind of comment. I hope your weather becomes less dreary soon. Glad you enjoyed the read!


Venkatachari M profile image

Venkatachari M 16 months ago from Hyderabad, India

Very interesting reflections of funny moments of the life. Enjoyed a lot. Thanks for sharing them.


DzyMsLizzy profile image

DzyMsLizzy 16 months ago from Oakley, CA Author

Hello, Venkatachari M,

I'm glad you enjoyed my funny stories. Thank you very much for stopping by and commenting.


FlourishAnyway profile image

FlourishAnyway 16 months ago from USA

Great stories., Liz. I liked that paint can story. My father is so funny that when we go out sometimes we laugh so loudly we have people come over and ask us to please share what's so funny.


DzyMsLizzy profile image

DzyMsLizzy 16 months ago from Oakley, CA Author

Hi, FlourishAnyway!

Ha..sounds like your dad's laugh is a lot like that of my late Uncle Joe, whom I referenced in the article. He had a great, deep, contagious laugh...he should have played Santa!

Thanks so much for your comment and sharing your own humor. I'm glad you enjoyed the article. (There would still be pink paint spatters if we had not re-painted the stairwell before we sold the house!)


Suzanne Day profile image

Suzanne Day 15 months ago from Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

The salt and rice sheets would have been a bit interesting to climb into!

Love your funny family stories. The other day, my son and I were watching a documentary about the science of decay, when there was a segment about the US army. Men were running around, hiding behind bushes in their camouflage gear and loading guns. My son said "Are they shooting at the food?" as the previous segment was all about food rotting. Guess you had to be there!


DzyMsLizzy profile image

DzyMsLizzy 15 months ago from Oakley, CA Author

Hi Suzanne-

Oh, gosh--that is funny! Kids can be so literal. And also, so many commercials are designed to 'blend in' to the program that youngsters can have a hard time telling them apart.

Thanks s for sharing that story!


fpherj48 profile image

fpherj48 15 months ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

I'm back again because I love this hub. I tell the story often about my Dad making me giggle myself silly as he walked up the street after work.

At 5 min to 5 every evening, I would go out to sit on the sidewalk to watch for my Dad round the corner. As soon as he would see me, he'd turn his cap on sideways, drop his jacket off his shoulders and begin to stagger like he was totally drunk, with his lunch box swinging back & forth. My Dad would zig-zag like a wino...all the way up the street and I would laugh until I was laying on the ground in hysterics......Somehow, I just never got tired of this silly routine.

My mother was always horrified.....thinking the neighbors would think she was married to a drunk....Which only made me laugh harder!


DzyMsLizzy profile image

DzyMsLizzy 15 months ago from Oakley, CA Author

Ohmighosh, Paula--that is hilarious! I can just see it now. Your dad sounds like a real kick-in-the-pants!

Thanks so much for stopping by again and sharing that gem.

I have recalled a few other stories, from tales I heard told in the family, even though I was not present or involved.

I do think another hub along these lines is in order. Stay tuned!


brakel2 profile image

brakel2 12 months ago from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Hi Liz - How hysterical. I wish my family had a funny streak, as they were far too serious. i like the story of the rice in the bed and also about the funnel and pink paint. Maybe I can think up some funny stories from my kids, as they are pretty funny. Thanks for making me laugh. Blessings, Audrey Sharing.


DzyMsLizzy profile image

DzyMsLizzy 12 months ago from Oakley, CA Author

Hi, Audrey!

LOL yes, it was a fun childhood. I'm glad my parents were not so serious. I'm sorry your family took themselves too seriously. But, you can make up your own humor, and yes, look to your kids; they are usually good for providing laughs!

Thanks so much for your kinds words. I'm glad you enjoyed the article.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 4 months ago from Queensland Australia

Lizzy, these true funny family stories were a joy to read. We all need a good laugh and you must have had plenty of those growing up. I love writing comedy/humorous hubs myself so enjoyed this. Well done.


DzyMsLizzy profile image

DzyMsLizzy 4 months ago from Oakley, CA Author

Thanks, Jodah! Glad you enjoyed this tale of nonsense and frivolity. A laugh is a good thing to have, especially these days!

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