David Bruce: The Funniest People in Relationships — Mothers

Mothers

• After Harry Houdini’s mother died in 1913, Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Conan Doyle attempted to allow her spirit to communicate with Houdini through “automatic writing,” in which Mrs. Doyle would allow Houdini’s mother’s spirit to use her hand to write a message to her son. In fact, a message was written — but it was written in English, and Houdini’s mother knew only Yiddish. However, this didn’t bother Mr. Doyle when Houdini pointed it out. Mr. Doyle felt that Houdini’s mother had learned English in Heaven.

• When lesbian humorist Laura Jimenez left home to go to college, her mother went out and bought a number of novelty envelopes. For a while, Laura was receiving personal mail from her mother in envelopes stating that the senders were such entities as “Johnson and Johnson Venereal Disease Research Center, Test Results Enclosed” and “Los Angeles Breast Augmentation Clinic.” One envelope even bore this legend: “New, Color Illustrated Satanic Ritual Guide Enclosed.”

• When James McNeill Whistler wanted to paint his mother, it took him a while to find the right pose for her. For a few days she stood, but when she asked to sit down for a rest, Mr. Whistler realized that his mother, who was in her sixties, was too old to stand and pose for hours. He put her in a chair and gave her a footstool for her feet — this turned out to be the right pose. His Arrangement in Grey and Black: Portrait of the Painter’s Mother became his most famous painting.

• In Jackson, Mississippi, Eudora Welty’s mother got her a public library card when she was nine years old. The librarian — Mrs. Calloway — was strict, sometimes sending girls home to change their clothes if she thought they weren’t dressed properly. Because of the librarian’s strictness, Mrs. Welty let her know specially that 9-year-old Eudora was allowed to check out any book she wanted — whether it came from the children’s section or the adults’ section of the library.

• As a youngster, Buddy Holley (later, he became known as “Holly” because of a typo on a contract he signed) and Bob Montgomery played country music as a duo. Buddy and Bob once played at a seventh-grade dance, where they dedicated a song to the teachers: “Too Old to Cut the Mustard.” Buddy’s mother was present, and she was embarrassed. Later, she said that she wished the duo had picked a different song to dedicate to the teachers.

• Children’s book author Patricia MacLachlan loved to read when she was a little girl. She and her mother would walk to the library, and young Patricia would read the books as they walked home. Because Patricia was busy reading, her mother would put her hand on Patricia’s neck and guide her as they walked home. By the time they reached home, Patricia had read all the books and wanted to go to the library again.

• One of movie critic Roger Ebert’s friends once worked for a pest control company while attending college. One day, he crawled under a house, exterminating pests with a spray gun. When he had finished, he crawled out, dirty and covered with cobwebs. The woman of the house invited him to drink lemonade, and as he drank it, she told her son, “Study your lessons hard, Jimmy, or you’ll end up like him.”

• Lots of mothers watched the children’s show Captain Kangaroo with their children. One day, Bob Keeshan, who played Captain Kangaroo, was having a drink with a friend in Hollywood. No one recognized him because he wasn’t wearing the Captain’s grey wig, but a woman in the bar complained, “My kids are in college, and I still keep hearing Captain Kangaroo’s voice!”

• Joel Perry went through puberty at the same time his mother was going through menopause, which meant that they had some interesting arguments. Once, he got his mother so angry that she shouted at him, “You son of a bitch!” He laughed and pointed at her, then she started laughing, too.

• When Betty Friedan sold her house, her daughter, Emily, took prospective buyers through the house. Arriving at the third floor, where Ms. Friedan did her writing, Emily would proudly tell the prospective buyers, “And this is where my mother wrote The Feminine Mystique.”

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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