When our daughters were little, I did my best to answer questions like: What makes strawberries red? Who was Nelson Eddy? What does God look like? How high is heaven? If I didn't know, I did the fatherly thing. "Go ask your mother" was my easy solution.
I can remember telling my seven-year-old what I thought was a good story:
Teacher: "Copying, huh? Haven't you got any ethics?"
Student: "Naw, I traded it in for a Ford."
Now how do you explain to a Space Age child what you were talking about was a long-gone Essex, a car the youngsters never heard of?
So I tried another story:
Grandpa: "I sure miss the old cuspidor since it's gone."
Grandma: "You missed it before. That's why it's gone."
I gave up trying to describe a spittoon because the subject was too indelicate. I was caught up in a dilemma of obsolescense. So I followed with a one-liner.
"I called my pig Waterman. Of course it wasn't his real name, just his pen name."
I thought everyone knew that Waterman was a fountain pen, but I was wrong.
I should have quit right there, but I foolishly tried another one:
Rumor-monger: "Shhhh. The wall might have ears."
Listener: "Oh, that's all right. They're plastered and probably can't hear right anyhow."
That's when I realized that a hod full of plaster was as foreign to the tyke as a bug whip. There was no way the youngster would know what I was talking about. So I told a few one-liners. I didn't care whether the kid got them or not. At least I knew what they meant.
He called his girl Venus because she wasn't all there.
A shampoo is not a real poo.
You could tell she was musical by the cords in her neck.
A violin is a dirty hotel.
Then there was the strange pigeon that walked people-toed.
I didn't get so much as a snicker for those great gags. I was wasting my time. All I got was a bored look and not even a fake chuckle.
Then I remembered what Louis Armstrong once said: "Jokes are like jazz. They're no danged good if you have to explain them."
So I've given up gags about crystal sets, kerosene lamps, Model Ts, Floyd Gibbons and the '29 crash. They're as obsolete as carbon paper!
© 2006 Robert F. Karolevitz