David Bruce: The Funniest People in Neighborhoods — Children, Christmas

Children

• Nick Carter, the youngest Backstreet Boy, started entertaining at an early age. When he was a very small child, his mother caught him standing on a tree stump and entertaining an audience consisting entirely of flowers, so she decided to quickly enroll him in singing lessons.

• Even as a young child, artist Andy Warhol was different. He once disappeared from a neighborhood baseball game, as the other players discovered when someone hit the baseball to where Andy was supposed to be. Later, John, his brother, found him drawing flowers.

• Young people in love do silly things. When Mark Twain was five years old, he fell in love with Laura Hawkins, who was the model for Becky Thatcher in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Young Mark had an apple, and he so loved Laura that he gave her the apple core.

• Growing up with two totally blind parents can lead to odd situations. For example, Etta Reid decided that 11-year-old Julie, her sighted daughter, needed a bra after feeling Julie’s breasts. Back then, Julie was horribly embarrassed, but today she thinks it’s funny.

• Being a famous opera singer in the days before quick and easy travel was quite rough. After Ernestine Schumann-Heink came back home in Europe after spending her first year singing in America, Ferdinand, her little son, asked her, “Is your name Mama?”

• In St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Onalaska, Wisconsin, Bill Bader gave a children’s sermon on the proper use of time. At one point, he asked for examples of a waste of time, and a three-year-old girl said, “How about taking a bath?”

Christmas

• When she was a young girl, children’s book author Marion Dane Bauer was infuriated when her parents lied to her — as parents did at that time (the 1940s and early 1950s) when they didn’t want their children to know about such things as divorce. For example, young Marion had not seen her godfather’s wife for a long time, and so she asked about her. Her mother told her that her godfather had never had a wife. Because of such lies and the way they made her feel, Ms. Bauer has been very honest with her own children — in fact, her daughter tells her that she is “pathologically honest.” For example, when her three-and-a-half-year-old son asked about Santa Claus and whether he had really put gifts in the stockings, she told him the truth. That was fine, but it had the unintended effect of never allowing her daughter, who was two years younger than her son, to believe in Santa Claus because her older brother told her the truth. Today, the daughter, a grown woman, usually tells the truth, but is not “pathological” about it.

• In grade 5, young adult author Chris Crutcher got into trouble with a Christian teacher. It was almost Christmas, and the teacher had assigned the students the task of seeing how many words they could create from the phrase “Merry Christmas.” The young student had written first “Chris,” then “Christ” on his list. His teacher ordered him to change the list and put “Christ” first, then his name. Frequently rebellious, Chris refused, and the teacher said that when Chris put his own name before the name Christ, he was committing the sin of pride.

• Many very young children don’t realize that what happens on stage is not real. At Christmas, Ernestine Schumann-Heink played the role of the Witch in the opera Hansel and Gretel while her children were very small, and when her character was put in the oven, her young son Ferdinand cried out, “They’re putting my mother in the oven and burning her up!” Fortunately, Ms. Schumann-Heink came out of the other side of the oven quickly, and little Ferdinand saw that she was all right.

• Tennis star Arthur Ashe valued education. When Camera, his daughter (her mother and his wife was the photographer Jeanne Moutoussamy), read to him for the first time a whole book out loud, he cried. Camera was raised well — each Christmas her father would take her to visit less fortunate families, to whose children they gave toys, including some that Camera had been given that day.

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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