David Bruce: The Funniest People in Families, Volume 2 — Mothers

Mothers

• When she was a young girl, Nancy Lieberman-Cline loved basketball, and she often traveled the subway into Harlem to play pick-up games. However, her mother didn’t think Nancy had a future in basketball, so she used a screwdriver to puncture her basketball. (Previously, her mother had made her stop playing tackle football against the neighborhood boys, which is why young Nancy started playing basketball in the first place.) The stratagem didn’t work. Nancy grew up to play basketball at Old Dominion University, then played professionally in the United States Basketball League (USBL), a minor league composed of men who had played basketball in college. She also played against the Harlem Globetrotters and helped train tennis star Martina Navratilova.

• In 1978, just before the all-around finals of the Commonwealth Games in Edmonton, Canada, a ladybug flew onto gymnast Elfi Schlegel’s leg. Her mother was delighted because she felt that this was a good-luck omen, so she put the ladybug in a jar with some air holes punched in the lid. In fact, young Elfi won the all-around, and during the press conference afterward, her mother told the reporters about the ladybug and showed them the jar. The ladybug received a lot of media attention, and when Elfi and her mother returned home to Toronto, many cards and presents were waiting for them—all with a ladybug theme. Today, even though Ms. Schlegel is grown up, ladybugs are her good-luck charm.

• Bela Karolyi is a celebrated women’s gymnastics coach. When future Olympic gold medalist Shannon Miller was eight years old, she attended one of Mr. Karolyi’s gymnastics camps. Shannon’s mother, Claudia, wanted a photograph of herself and Mr. Karolyi. He was agreeable, and a secretary took the photograph. Unfortunately, when the photograph was developed at a one-hour service, Mr. Karolyi’s head was not in the shot. Therefore, Claudia drove back to Mr. Karolyi’s camp and asked for another photograph. He laughed, and the second photograph, which was not taken by the secretary, turned out well.

• Dame Lilian Braithwaite and Joyce Carey, her daughter, were English actresses. During World War II, they shared an apartment in London at a time when the Nazis were regularly bombing the city. One night, an explosion waked up Ms. Carey, and she discovered that her bed was covered in rubble. She lay in bed for a moment, terrified of what she might find when she went to her mother’s bedroom. Just then, she heard her mother’s theatrical tones coming from the next room: “WELL! REALLY!”

• When they were able to afford it, comedians George Burns and Gracie Allen had a swimming pool constructed at their house. The children quickly learned to swim, but Gracie never went in the pool. However, Gracie began to worry about what their children would think if she didn’t learn to swim, so she took swimming lessons. One day, she told the children, “Watch this,” then she jumped into the water and swam the length of the pool. After that, she never swam again.

• Only the United States President can appoint a Supreme Court Justice. Jane, Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s daughter, wrote in her 1973 high school yearbook that someday her mother would become a United States Supreme Court Justice. Jane added that if necessary, she herself would appoint her mother to the Supreme Court. In 1993, President Bill Clinton saved Jane the trouble by making Ms. Ginsburg the second woman to sit on the Supreme Court.

• Actress Laurette Taylor’s mother, Elizabeth Cooney, was illiterate. Early in her life, she was suspicious of reading and writing, and she sometimes threw her husband’s books into the fireplace. Later, however, she changed her mind about literacy. Shortly before she died, she gave her daughter a surprise—she demonstrated that she had learned to read and write.

• Even when he was ten years old, Ken Griffey, Jr., was a superior baseball player—so superior that the parents of players on other teams thought that he was older than ten and therefore should not be allowed to play. Young Ken’s mother, Alberta, started to carry his birth certificate to games so that she could prove his age when it was challenged.

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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