I remember my mom doubling over with laughter years ago when she shared the story of a door-to-door salesman who was in my childhood neighborhood years ago trying to sell brushes and other gadgets to housewives.
It was the mid-1960s, and my mother, Lois, and her friend, Doris, had set up a system to alert each other if they saw salesmen heading toward their front doors.
My mother had witnessed the act of Doris getting caught red-handed while trying to hide from a salesman in her house. Mom shared the story with me after I got home from elementary school and now, looking back, I realize it was one of my early lessons in humor provided by Mom.
According to my mother, the salesman was a regular in our neighborhood and such a fixture that some of the housewives were tired of him. He kept coming around, however, because they were too polite to tell him to hit the road.
One day while Mom and Doris were on the phone, my mother spotted the salesman heading toward Doris’ home. Mom told Doris she should do something quick because the guy was almost at her doorstep.
It took Doris, who was thin and limber, just two seconds to hit the floor and roll under the dining room table while keeping up a steady conversation with Mom on the phone.
“Can you see where he’s at right now?” Doris asked my mom through a hissing whisper. “No, I’m not sure where he’s at,” was Mom’s reply.
After a couple more minutes of whispered conversation, the two women ascertained that the salesman had given up and left in pursuit of another unsuspecting housewife.
Creeping slowly out from under the table, Doris got to her knees with the phone still pressed to her ear. She then crawled to the door to see if she could catch a glimpse of the dark suit walking away. Pressing herself against the door, she slowly inched her way up — and came nose to nose through the window with an unsmiling face.
“Can you see him … where’s he at?” my mom asked anxiously. Silence from the other end of the line. Finally, Doris came back on the line in a rather sheepish, formal tone.
“Lois, I have to go now because I have a salesman at the door.”
I can still see the tears rolling down Mom’s cheeks while telling me the story through choking laughs at our kitchen table. During that one masterfully told anecdote, Mom helped me see the humor in this incident and how it can lighten situations that could otherwise be stressful.
I like to believe I picked up and used many of Mom’s humorous views on life over the years. I had that confirmed when my daughter, Suzi, gave me one of the best Mother’s Day gifts ever last year.
The gift was a small, hard-covered “Knock Knock” book titled “What I Love About Mom” and was signed and dated by my daughter. Inside were 50 pages of messages that had printed lines such as, “I love your ...” or “You have the prettiest … “ Each printed message was followed by a blank line that had to be filled in with a handwritten comment by the child.
On a page that said “I’m thankful I got your ... “ Suzi wrote, “Your sense of humor.”
That really touched me, since it is a deeply valued trait derived from my mother. I’m glad I could pass it on to my daughter, who was always the clown that made her peers laugh — and still does.
Mom passed along other wonderful qualities, including compassion, to me and my siblings. For example, she insisted on raising my special-needs brother at home during an era when people with disabilities were regularly institutionalized. That compassion wasn’t lost on her children who continue to have regular involvement in my brother’s life.
Mom’s love of books and writing were also imparted to several of her children and grandchildren. I’m also grateful to have picked up this skill from her.
On Mother’s Day, those who are blessed to still have mothers, or mother figures in their lives, should write down several things they love best about them and present them as gifts.
I plan to remind my mom about her humorous outlook on life and hope we can share a good laugh.