Dad’s baby sister, a redhead named Bertie, is a shoo-in for my “Funniest People I Know” list. With her rollicking sense of humor, she is able to laugh as heartily when the joke is on her as when she has successfully “pranked” someone else.
Take, for instance, the time she saw my mother coming up the street to visit her at her office. Thinking she’d get the drop on Mom, she hid behind the door and when it opened, she jumped out, yelling. She got the drop, alright – on a little old lady who, hopefully, was wearing Depends that day.
There was also the day (it was around Christmas time) that she was enjoying lunch with a friend at a Mexican restaurant. They were laughing and talking as they made their way out when people suddenly came running at them from every direction. Puzzled, she turned to see what the excitement was all about and noted that a Christmas tree was following her. She had inadvertently hooked her purse on it and was hauling it toward the parking lot when the staff kindly arrived and deforested her. The next time they went back, she said, it was wired to the railing.
Another hilarious “Aunt Bertie moment” occurred one summer when they were camping with my parents. As the story goes, she, her daughter, and my mother had gone up to use the facilities. Mom was settling into her stall when she heard Aunt Bertie say adamantly, “Who’s in there?” When she came out, there stood a nervous Bertie, pushing on the stall door, which refused to open. Bending over, she saw no legs visible and immediately deduced that a man with nefarious intent was standing on the toilet, refusing to let her in.
The three anxious women exited. Just then a stranger approached, intending to avail himself of the facilities. “Sir,” Aunt Bertie said, “could you come help us?” Leading him into the women’s restroom, she told him her story. Sure enough, when he pushed on the door, it refused to yield. Then, in one smooth motion, he pulled the door open, revealing an empty stall.
It was three mortified women who staggered back to camp that day, howling like a pack of hyenas while the men rushed to set up camp across the creek in an effort to distance themselves from such feminine foolishness.
Over the years, Aunt Bertie’s family has provided her with plenty of material that she gleefully shares with one and all. Uncle Paul, a steady counterpoint to her life-of-the-party persona, has a dry sense of humor and is a very colorful and imaginative dreamer – literally. To her delight, he, though quiet when awake, becomes a veritable chatterbox while sleeping. She skillfully draws him out in conversation as he dreams and then reports it to her friends over coffee.
For example, one night he said to her, “Did you hear that?”
“What?” she said.
“Rush Limbaugh. He said (and here he switched to Pennsylvania Dutch), ‘For five minutes, let’s just say kind things.’”
Another time he said to her, “Why are you still standing there?”
“Where?” she asked helpfully.
“At the Red Sea. You know it doesn’t happen every day,” as though, she told me later, she was standing there waiting for the water to part.
You know, she really should read the poor man his rights every night before they go to bed. “Anything you say in your sleep can and will be used against you repeatedly and with great relish.”
Perhaps to her chagrin, there are many stories yet to be told. It is certainly with chagrin that I can no longer deny that there are plenty of nuts on my side of the family tree and that our DNA carries its own undeniable quirks.
I hope my husband isn’t reading this column today. I hope he sticks to the sports page. Please don’t tell him I finally admitted it, because if you do, I’ll say you lied.