David Bruce: The Funniest People in Families — Gifts, Grandparents

Gifts

• When figure skater Dorothy Hamill was 11 years old — in the days before teenagers got their noses pierced as a fashion statement — her friends gave her 13 pairs of earrings. A competition was coming up, and her parents told her that if she won the competition, she could get both ears pierced. However, if she finished second, she could get only one ear pierced, and if she finished third, she could get only her nose pierced.

• At age 13, R.L. Stine received a heavy-duty typewriter as a bar mitzvah gift — a gift he made much use of. During summer vacations in his high school years, he told his parents that he couldn’t get a job because he was too busy writing a novel. His parents never questioned this statement. As an adult, Mr. Stein became the author of the Fear Street and Goosebumps series.

• When American dance pioneers Ted Shawn and Ruth St. Denis married each other, Ms. St. Denis refused to wear a wedding ring because she regarded it as “a symbol of bondage.” Later, because Mr. Shawn felt that at least one of them ought to wear a wedding ring, she bought him one as a first-anniversary gift.

• When Giulio Gatti-Casazza was courting soprano Frances Alda, he gave her a perfect lover’s gift — a leather-bound volume of love letters he had written to her.

Grandparents

• When Maud Gruss was 12 years old and about to make her first public appearance as a solo tightrope walker, her mother, whose name was Gipsy, showed her a scrapbook filled with photographs and clippings of her own career as a tightrope walker. In one old black-and-white photograph, Maud recognized herself, but Gipsy turned the page, showed her an even older black-and-white photograph, and asked, “And this one, is that you as well?” The young girls in the photographs, although they looked very much like 12-year-old Maud, turned out to be her grandmother Violette and her great-grandmother Germaine, both of whom had been tightrope walkers. (By the way, Maud’s public debut went very well, and her father, Alexis, said, “Tonight, a new star is born.”)

• George Beatty was a jewelry maker in Cleveland, Ohio. He once received a letter from a wealthy man who wanted him to create a piece of jewelry for the wealthy man’s dearest granddaughter. Mr. Beatty noticed that the letter referred to the granddaughter as “dearest” five times, and he prayed to God for inspiration — a prayer that was answered. He created a ring across which were displayed, in order, a diamond, an emerald, an amethyst, a ruby, another emerald, a sapphire, and a topaz. Why are there two emeralds? Mr. Beatty says, “Because there are two e’s in ‘dearest.’ If you take the initials of those stones, it spells the word ‘dearest.’”

• As a child, Russian ice skater Ekaterina Gordeeva used to go mushroom hunting with her grandfather. Because all their neighbors also went mushroom hunting, they tried to get up early so they could find mushrooms before anyone else. However, if they were late, her grandfather would tell her not to worry, because their mushrooms would hide from the other mushroom hunters. According to Ms. Gordeeva, her grandfather was right, because they always found their mushrooms.

• The grandmother of Meredith Willson, author of The Music Man, was lying on her deathbed when a truck farmer came by with “triple-strength horseradish guaranteed to grow hair on a china egg.” She heard the truck farmer and asked her children to bring her some horseradish and a spoon. She put a spoonful of the horseradish in her mouth, swallowed, then said, “Now there’s something with a little character!”

• Fred Rogers, aka Mister Rogers, is named for his grandfather: Fred Brooks McFeely. While Mister Rogers was growing up, his grandfather frequently told him, “I like you, just the way you are.” Of course, this is a quotation that he has shared with generations of children who watch his TV show, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.

• One day when he was young, Maury Maverick, Jr., was kissing a girl on his grandmother’s front porch, when his grandmother told him to stop that. He replied, “Oh, Grandma, you used to do the same thing back in Virginia behind shutters.” His grandmother hit him, then said, “What do you think shutters are for, you young fool?”

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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