Whenever my mother came over for a visit, I knew I was in for a military inspection. She tried to do it as if she was an undercover agent, but that never lasted, since she was never someone who could keep things to herself. She might start by saying that everything looked nice. Then she may have noticed something new, and she’d tell me that I didn’t need it and that if I had gone through the Depression like she had, I wouldn’t be so frivolous. Now, we were talking about a vacuum cleaner that I had bought once my old one finally died. “Why didn’t you buy an electric broom?” she asked. She had two, one from 1968 that just needed a little work, that I could have … or I could just sweep. That’s what people did back then, they swept. According to her, the trouble with my generation is that we don’t know the value of money. Just wait till I get old and try to get into a nursing home. See if they’ll take the vacuum in trade.
I thought I was in the clear at this point, but then she opened a closet and several hundred items fell out. When company’s coming I do exterior cleaning. I figure they’re not going to go into my closets and drawers. But not good old Mom. The head of the FBI would be outdone by her talents. She wasted no time telling me the closet was a mess.
Since I was familiar with the bait, I decided not to bite. I just used one of my favorite assertiveness techniques called “agreeing” and said, “Yes, it is.” “Well, you never did like to clean your closets, did you?” she said. “No, I never did.” I said, agreeably.
Next she headed to a trunk I had at the foot of my bed. “Remember when you were 10 and I had to empty all your drawers and closets and we found things you thought you had lost?” If elephants are supposed to have good memories than my mother must definitely have some of their DNA. I responded by saying, “Oh yes, I remember.” After all I certainly never want to forget such fond memories!
Her last remark was the impetus for what I thought was my most excellent comeback, even though it was tainted with sarcasm. She asked me what would happen if “they” came over and looked in my closets. Now she was bringing in an entire cast of characters to support her findings. My inner sarcastic muse could not be held back. I told her in a somewhat bemused fashion, that I had run an ad in The New York Times about my closets. I said it was a limited showing, but that ticket sales had been so brisk I had to extend it for another couple of weeks. I thought I was going to get another lecture about being disrespectful, but instead we both ended up laughing. Humor had saved the day!
— Author, humorist, PBS star and Fortune 500 trainer Loretta LaRoche lives in Plymouth, Massachusetts. To share your pet peeves, questions or comments, write to The Humor Potential, 50 Court St., Plymouth, MA 02360. Visit her website at stressed.com.