Monday, August 10, 2009

Funny Bones

All of us descendants of Horace and Lucy Hodge confess to having warped senses of humor. Outsiders frequently don't "get" us. Those of us on the inside, however, are fluent in the Hodge brand of humor and even go so far as to brag about being different and misunderstood.

So who do we blame for this oddness we all inherited? Was it the Hodge line or the Mobley line or the Mason line or the McAfee line? I suspect that a good portion of it came down the Hodge line, having become acquainted with some far flung Hodge cousins who seem to share a mild strain of the trait. My grandfather Horace was very good with the subtle dig that is a characteristic common to us all. However, my grandmother Lucy was no slouch when it came to quick retorts. That leads me to believe that our off-kilter sense of humor is the result of a special collision of genes from both sides.

I can remember quite early in my life being chided to let the kinfolks' digs roll off my back because "they wouldn't pick on you if they didn't like you". I confess there were times when I wished they didn't like me so much, but as the years passed I came to understand how it works.

Rule number 1 -No straight answers to questions. If you want to know something, find a roundabout way to get the information. A direct question is an invitation to having the wool pulled down over your eyes at the least or being led down a wandering path to a spot in the middle of nowhere as only one of several of the worst possibilities.

Rule number 2 - Never miss an opportunity to toss a smart aleck riposte when one in our midst slips and offers a careless opening to do so.

Rule number 3 - the defense rule - is constant vigilance so that you don't slip up and offer the opportunity for one of the quick-witted relatives to get in a verbal jab that is even cleverer than your own.

Corollary to rule number 3 is if you do slip up - join in the fun and make a jab at your own expense before someone else beats you to it.

Cardinal rule number 4 - don't make the mistake of letting all the folderol and foolishness hurt your feelings. None of the participants ever intends to hurt anyone's feelings (you will have no doubt whatsoever in your mind if they do) and if you make the mistake of taking something too personally, you stand the chance of being excluded from future bouts of family verbal volleyball. And NOBODY wants that.

Well nobody but possibly the poor souls who marry into the family and find themselves suddenly thrust into a lively bunch of smart mouths. We've all perfected our humor reflexes with years of practice and the fledgling members don't stand a chance of out-talking (that is, out-smarting off) us veterans of the Hodge humor wars. Some newcomers to the family circle eventually catch on and those that don't usually end up talking to each other in the far corner of the room and missing out on a heckuva lot of fun.

I feel rather fortunate that I not only grew up with a band of funny Hodge relatives, but I also have some very funny relatives on my paternal side as well. The humor on that side varies from conventional jokesters to an aunt who cracks me up with sotto voce observations of the hysterical sort and everyone else in the room wonders why I'm suddenly cackling my fool head off for no apparent reason. Well, everyone else who doesn't know my aunt. The relatives just give a knowing grin because they know I've just been the beneficiary of my aunt's extraordinary sense of humor.

My grandparents may have been dirt poor in money and possessions, but they spread an inheritance of laughter down to their children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren. It is an inheritance I value very much. Without the ability to laugh at life, it might be hard to find a reason to keep going when times get tough.


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