Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Thursday Thirteen #42 -- The Secret Word Is Groucho


Since Thursday is Thanksgiving, let me give thanks for film, kinescopes and videotape. Without the magic of media, I couldn't be as familiar with Groucho Marx. What a loss that would be, because everything about the man cracks me up. His silly, painted-on mustache. The stooped walk. His wonderful, goofy songs (Lydia the Tattooed Lady, Hello I Must Be Going, Hooray for Captain Spaulding). His timing and delivery. Even the names of his movie characters: Hugo Z. Hackenbush, Rufus T. Firefly, Otis B. Driftwood.

Here are 13 of his quotes. As you read these lines, imagine them spoken as only Groucho could.

1. If you want to see a comic strip, watch me take a shower.

2. Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana.

3. Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read anyway.

4. Last night I shot an elephant in my pajamas. And how he got into my pajamas I’ll never know.

5. Don’t gulp that poison! It’s $4 a bottle!

6. Any man who can see through women is missing a lot.

7. I don’t want to belong to any club that would have someone like me as a member.

8. I have here an accident policy that will absolutely protect you no matter what happens. If you lose a leg, we'll help you look for it.

9. I intend to live forever or die trying.

10. I’ve known and respected your husband for many years – and if you’re good enough for him, you’re good enough for me!

11. Here’s to our wives and our girlfriends … May they never meet!

12. I could dance with you until the cows came home. On second thought, I’d rather dance with the cows until you came home.

13. I wish you’d keep my hands to yourself.

Links to other Thursday Thirteens!
1. Holly recommends drinking mimosas and 12 other non-football endeavors for Thanksgiving.

2. Susie J takes us into the kitchen and shares the secret to really great cornbread

3. Ellen b sings the praises of New York

4. Tink fills us in with 13 facts about her life today

5. SJ introduces us to 13 of her ancestors

6. Nicholas returns to his bookshelf with his TT

7. Yuriko shares 13 Thanksgiving wishes

8. Lori has a thankful TT this week

9. Get to know Ms. Nononsense a bit better through her TT

10. Susan Helene shares Thanksgiving lore from her town of Riverview

11. Janet has a dreamy Thanksgiving menu

12. Shesawriter has a literary TT

13. Fresh Girl pauses to be thankful with her TT

14. Wacky Mommy shares "a little about us."

15. Grace lists 13 momentous events that happened on 11/22 -- her birthday!

16. Sassy Lucy is thankful today, and here's why

17. Amy's TT is a how-to about reaching your goals

18. Geek Betty is a thankful one, but from her one-of-a-kind POV

19. Adelle's TT is filled with fascinating facts

20. Aline PROVES she exists!

21. Di shares her iPod playlist with us.

22. See why Leslie enjoys Fall

23. I Am the Diva is suspicious, and here's why

24. Harlekwin's TT is beautiful

25. Denise introduces us to 13 fascinating characters

26. Tina Kubala is thankful, and here's why

27. Damozel gives us 13 profiles in courage

28. DriverAA is thankful, too, and shares 13 reasons

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

My sixth birthday

Jenny McB asked me what I recall about November 22, 1963. In Brookfield, IL, I turned 6. In Dallas, TX, the world changed. I think my indelible memories of those days all these years later may serve to help parents understand that when major news events happen (Columbine, the death of Princess Diana, 9/11), children are very, very aware of it.

It was a Friday. My teacher's name was Mrs. Kroch. Because it was my birthday, I got to pass out a special treat (round milk chocolate discs individually wrapped in red/black aluminum foil and glued to black paper "feet" so that they looked like lady bugs).

The loudspeaker came on suddenly but it wasn't our principal, Miss McCann. Instead it was a scratchy radio broadcast that I couldn't understand. (I still can't understand announcements over loudspeakers.) Mrs. Kroch seemed confused and upset and sent a classmate next door to see "if it's true." I still didn't know what "it" was.

I realize now that at this point, no one knew JFK was dead, but that he had been shot. The teachers conferred in the hall for a while and then we were all sent home -- not just for lunch but for the whole day. I don't remember what we were told, but what amazes me about this today in 2007 is that (1) we were all allowed to walk to and from school; no one got a ride and (2) the school was confident that we each had a stay-at-home mom who would be there waiting for us.

When I got home, my mom was sitting on the coffee table, staring at the TV and crying. I remember that she was sitting on the table because we got yelled at for doing that. I think she wanted to be as close to the TV as possible. By now it had been announced that the president had died. She told me she'd heard the news at the grocery store and was so upset she just left her cart and came home. This part of the story is highly significant for me because it meant I WOULDN'T HAVE A BIRTHDAY CAKE AT DINNER THAT NIGHT! Remember, I'm a six-year-old first grader. I barely knew who JFK was, but I sure as shit knew it was my birthday and I wanted a cake.

Still, I'd never seen my mother cry like that before so I kept quiet. She was kinda scaring me. This was the first clue that there was something very wrong in my world.

My older sister (second grade) came home shortly after and informed me I was NOT going to have a birthday party the next day . She has always enjoyed whipping me up. This couldn't be true! I confronted my tearful mother about my party. She took me into my room to help me change into my playclothes and confirmed that yes, she was going to call all the moms that night and cancel my "kids party." I would still have my "family party" that night, but you just can't have a "kids party" when the president has been assassinated.

I don't recall if I argued with her or not. I just remember her crying and crying and crying. I realize now, looking back, she was half in love with JFK. My mom was 26 years old, and loved that the Kennedys had two kids and she had two kids (Caroline and I are just days apart). She had been terribly upset when Jackie had a miscarriage earlier that year. And JFK was just too cool. And now he was dead. She kept mentioning "those two kids."

I don't remember much until that evening, my "festive" party with no birthday cake. By now the Zapruder film was on TV. Over and over and over again. The same film! (Though the goriest frames had been censored.) My dad, still in his 20s himself and a gearhead, was just THRILLED to see that we had the same model Lincoln Continental convertible as Kennedy was shot in. "Look at the doors! Those are our doors!" My mom already hated that car because riding with the top down gave my older sister earaches. Anyway, every time my dad mentioned the convertible, my mom got this look on her face and I knew that car was gonna be gone soon. (It was. We got a nice blue Cadillac sedan after that.)

My icky grandparents (my mom's side) were guests. I was so happy that I got the one gift I'd really, really wanted. Ordered from the Avon book, it was a pink whale filled with baby shampoo. Press his tail and the shampoo comes out his blow hole. I showed it to my icky Grandma, who snapped, "Can't you see I'm watching TV?" That's all any of the adults did that weekend -- watch TV.

I have no memories until Sunday, when my dad took me to my good grandparents' house to get my birthday gift from them. My grandpa (one of my favorite people ever) was playing Lincoln Logs with me, showing me how to make a fence, when my dad started yelling at the TV. It was the first time I heard the word "lynching." Oswald was dead now, too. Being a budding wordsmith, I remember thinking that "assassinate" and "lynch" were very fancy words for "shot."

Since the next week was a short week anyway (Thanksgiving), school stayed closed until the following Monday. My mother wouldn't let us ride our bikes or play with other kids because it would be disrespectful to the President, so my sister and I stayed inside and fought. My mom tried to explain to us that we should watch the funeral, that this was history and very important. But she was still crying a lot and making me uncomfortable.

About four years later, my kid sister was a toddler and very ill. My mom explained to my older sister and me that our sister was staying in the hospital for a few days but not to worry -- SHE WAS NOT GOING TO DIE. Mom kept emphasizing it so we wouldn't be scared, but she needn't have. I remember thinking, "She's not crying like when JFK died, so it can't be bad." Same thing when the Apollo astronauts were lost in space. I figured they'd be OK because my mom wasn't crying like when JFK died. Or when she herded us into the basement because a tornado was sighted not far from our home. How close could the tornado really be? She's not crying like when JFK died. That remained my measurement for bad news for years: How hard is Mom crying compared to 11/22/63?

Most important to me at the time: while my party was never rescheduled, I did eventually get most of the gifts from my classmates. I know it sounds shallow, but remember, I was 6!

Most important to me now: Jackie managed to throw a third birthday party for John-John after the funeral on 11/25/63. I am completely in awe of her for that. I remember my own mom -- and every adult in my world -- confused, mournful and almost non-functioning between the assassination and the funeral. Yet somehow Jackie, at the center of it all, managed to suck it up and host a party for her little boy. That woman must have been made of very strong stuff.