Writing a humor column for the newspaper can be a little tricky. Especially if you frequently feature friends and relatives. Every time something silly or undignified happens to someone in front of me, the first words out of their mouths are usually, "Oh, god, this is going in the newspaper, isn't it?"
"Oh, no," I reassure them. Then two weeks later, I'm on the phone with them. "Say, remember when your wife poured the bacon grease into the soda can and you walked into the kitchen and stole what you thought was a big swig of her soda? Yeah, can I use that this week?" or "Can I borrow your story about that room mate you had who would steal all your underwear and how you could only figure he was going to use them to make some kind of strange letterman jacket?"
My family in particular proofreads my column with apprehension. "What am I doing this week?" my dad likes to say. "Why is it always me?" my husband likes to sigh. "Your daughter is going to get you when she's older," my mother likes to warn.
Even the neighbors are careful. Just the other day, there was a minor uproar in our neighborhood as one of the local mothers was stricken with some form of Spring Madness. On the south side of her backyard, she has a narrow strip between the house and fence. This strip is perhaps three feet in width and is planted with two fairly young cherry trees. For some reason, looking at one of the young trees inspired the lady to see if she could hoist her spreading, middle-aged backside up into the branches, like she did when she was a kid.
Against all odds, she made it up into the tree. However, with the last little push to get her weight settled properly, the lowest branch — the one she had been using as a foothold — snapped. There she was, safely in the tree, but with her escape route cut off.
No problem. Swing down, right? Not without either snapping off one of the primary fruiting branches for the year or putting a foot through the glass of the kitchen window. No, in the narrow confines of the side yard, she was forced to slither down the trunk and try to wriggle around the fruiting branches.
With the distinctive sound of denim blue jeans ripping, her left foot safely touched ground again. The woman took stock of her situation. She was unharmed. The tree was unharmed. The large pane of glass beside her was unharmed. But there was a large, gaping hole in her pants and her right foot was caught in the "v" of branches, just about shoulder height.
"Thank god for those yoga classes," she was heard to mutter, hopping about on one foot as she examined her options.
Enter her toddler. "Aw right, mom??" The cries echoed across the yard as a very helpful little girl rushed over to where her mother was trapped. "Aw right??"
"I'm fine, Lill, just stand back." Well of course it was me up there. No one else in our neighborhood is dippy enough to rip their pants getting stuck in a tree.
"Mommy, I help!" Lillian reassured me and latched on to the back of my pants, where she began hauling straight down with all her might in an effort to pull me out of the tree. Any hopes I had of lifting my foot the two inches I needed to get free were now replaced by the fear that my daughter was going to pants me, then run off.
"Lillian, stop that. Just step back..."
"Aw right, Mom??"
"Let go of my pants..."
"Oh, reeeally?" said a voice, unmistakably laced with glee.
"Daddez!! Mommy uhh tree!! Owie!!! Help, Daddez, help!" Lillian rushed over to her father.
I tried to look casual. "I don't know what she's talking about, John. Everything's fine."
"Uh huh," he grinned as he walked around to the opposite side of the tree and propped my heel up enough for me to slide my foot free. "Nice pants. And just what would you have done if there had been nobody else home?"
"Uh huh. This is going in the humor column, isn't it?"
"No," I stated firmly. "This never happened."
"I'll go tell your parents that the column is going to be about you this week."
Comments and fake names to Alex.Queen@gmail.com.
This article first appeared in the Sunday, March 27, 2005 issue of the Manteca (Calif.) Bulletin.
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