Friday, January 11, 2008

Dinner time

Doris had any number of drawbacks as a parent, but I will give her credit for entertainment value. If she had been a bit more responsible in her parenting duties, she would in some ways have been an ideal mother for growing boys.

One of the ways she managed to get along with us was that she had and still has a rather bawdy sense of humor.

By the time I was 14 or 15, I had discovered dirty jokes and also found an appreciative audience in my mother. By that time, things had degenerated around the house to the point where my father and I could not eat at the same table, so Dad would take his dinner on a tray in front of the TV and my mother, my younger brother Mike and I would eat at the kitchen table.

I can't be sure of when exactly it started, but dinner time became the set hour where we would review for Doris all of the jokes we heard at school. Looking back, Mike must have had quite the group of friends, since he is 4 years younger than I am and he was able to provide quite the staggering array of smutty humor.

There we would sit, biding our time. Timing was everything after all. What was the point in telling the joke, unless you could hit Mom with the punchline when her mouth was full. We got extra points if she passed food through her nose.

Every evening Mom would make the same dire statement.

"Goddamnit, I'm never going to eat with you 2 again!"

Every evening she would be back for more. Occasionally, she would make her own contribution, having heard something particularly good from one of my aunts or one of her crony's.

We must have made an odd grouping. 2 adolescent boys, telling dirty jokes to our mother and our mother telling us dirty jokes in return.

Some of Mom's more straight laced friends thought that this was just awful and wondered what type of horrible monsters we would grow into under this disgraceful arrangement.

My father couldn't understand it either and grumbled away, but he might as well have been on the other side of the country. Having excluded himself, he never found his way into this small and exclusive club, dining in his solitary splendor, above such vulgar displays.

Looking back on that sad, odd childhood I am strangely pleased that I can find these little islands of happiness. Strange as they were, they were vignettes of something like family and I suppose must have informed my outlook on the world.

Getting a good laugh at the dinner table is still one of the tools I use to measure an enjoyable time at table. Dirty jokes don't figure quite as large, though I will also say that some of the more interesting experiences my friends and I have had that usually revolve around sex make up a goodly portion of dinner conversation and we have had a lot of good laughs at each others or our own expense.

On the whole, I would say that those dinners with Doris, regardless of the dire predictions of our turning into hooligans, in fact prepared us for civilized life. After all, they say man is the only animal that can laugh.

Though, whoever said that never owned a dog. Cats don't laugh, they only snicker.