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Real Blonde StoriesA Fun-Filled Collection of Zany Adventures
By Lori Bassel
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2011 Lori Bassel
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe Pranksters
I'm related to a long line of very silly people. Have you heard the line, "My family tree is full of nuts?" Well, in my case it couldn't be more accurate. Apparently, my grandfathers were both a couple of practical jokers. My mom's dad, Jack, and my dad's dad were childhood friends. They went to school together, and according to legend, they caused quite a bit of trouble together.
Lots of people called my mom's dad "Toots," but we just called him Grandpa. My grandpa was a wonderful man. He was kind and generous, and he loved us kids like we were the best things ever. He used to let us sip on his beer and puff on his cigars. He'd crack hardboiled eggs on our heads and tell us silly stories. One time, someone put a raw egg in with the bowl of hardboiled eggs in anticipation of my grandfather's habit of cracking the eggs on people's heads. Sure enough, Grandpa reached for an egg and, as luck would have it, grabbed the raw one. He leaned over and cracked it open on my uncle's head. I don't know who was more surprised, my poor uncle or my grandfather.
My grandfather was a Golden Gloves boxer back in his day. I was told he never lost a fight. You would never guess he was a fighter. He seemed like a big mush ball to us kids. Mom says he had quite a temper, especially in his younger years, but we never saw it. I spent a lot of time with my grandfather. He used to pick me up every Saturday morning and take me down to Sears for warm cashews. We played checkers and cards, and Grandpa would always let me win. We made ice cream sundaes and root beer floats and anything else my little heart desired. The smell of cashews always reminds me of my grandpa.
My dad's dad, Jule, was a real character. He was extremely athletic. I can remember going over to his house on Christmas Eve and watching him walk on his hands for what seemed like an hour. My cousins and I would fight over the change that fell out of his pockets when he was upside down. Grandpa was a Michigan State Horseshoe champion.
Many of the stories about my grandfathers were told to us by my dad. One of my favorites was about my two grandpas in class together. I'm not sure whether they hated their teacher or just enjoyed causing trouble, but as the story goes, they played a pretty mean practical joke on the poor man.
They rigged some fishing line from their desks up to the ceiling and through a hole in the Styrofoam drop ceiling. Then they dropped the line down above the teacher's desk chair and attached a hook on the end. The teacher came in that morning, suspecting nothing, and sat in his chair like normal. One of my grandpas dropped the fishing line down above the teacher's head and hooked his toupee. I'm guessing it was Grandpa Jack who gave a tug on the line—and pulled the wig right off his head! He reeled in the line and raised it up to the ceiling! I don't know what happened after that, but I would venture to guess those two spent many hours in the principal's office.
Let Me Help
My mom, Bonnie, was born blonde and continued to be blonde into her forties with the help of her hairdresser. My mother's hair went through a transformation over the years from platinum to natural blonde and then brown with blonde streaks. I had a definite opinion on the subject, as I remember, and anytime Mom thought about letting her hair grow in natural, I did my best to talk her out of it. I liked her hair blonde. Mom has big blue eyes, and she is really pretty, especially when her hair is platinum blonde, which is the way I always liked it the best. Blonde hair also suits my mom's personality. She can be very silly and almost childlike, and I think blonde hair makes her look much younger. My mom is very social. She loves people, and she loves to laugh.
Mom was a real tomboy when she was a kid, so I take after her in that respect. Grandpa bought her a power boat back when she was barely fourteen years old. I can't imagine Grandma being part of that decision, but Grandpa had a way of talking her into things. My grandma, Helen, was a very nervous lady. I remember traveling with my grandparents and riding in the back seat with Grandma. She would grab hold of the ties on our halter tops and practically choke poor Lisa and me to death because she was scared around the curves. The worst of that happened on our trip to California. The views in the Rocky Mountains were incredible, but Grandma missed most of it because her eyes were closed!
I guess my mom was more like Grandpa. She was out on her boat skiing or pulling the other kids around every day that the Michigan weather permitted. Mom was an excellent slalom skier. Grandpa told me she was better than any of the boys back then, and she also drove the boat with more confidence than any of the kids on Lake Huron.
My parents joined the Port Huron Yacht Club back when I was a young girl. It might sound like a fancy place, but it was very down to earth, so my parents felt at home there. My parents bought their first boat together back in 1970, a twenty-six-foot Thunderbird sailboat. It was an old wooden boat, but it was a beauty, and they called her Mariah. The members pulled all the sailboats out of the river every fall and stored them in the yard at the yacht club through the winter. Every spring, we'd haul Mariah up to our house and store her in the driveway. It was more convenient for Dad to work on her at home, and he spent many weekends preparing Mariah for the summer sailing season. He cleaned and sanded and painted and varnished throughout all the months of spring.
My dad bought a new sander one year, hoping to speed things along. There was a lot of woodwork on the old Thunderbird—hand rails, copings, floorboards, and the like—so the electric sander was bound to make life easier.
Mom took on the task of sanding all the woodwork that spring. She climbed up the ladder, switched on the sander, and began working on Mariah's copings. A few minutes later, she climbed back down the ladder and headed for the house. She crossed the side yard and walked up the steps to the side entrance of our house. She then stood on the porch; yelled back in the direction of the boat, "Gary, I'm sorry, but I don't really know how to work the sander"; and went inside and shut the door. Dad was working on the keel at the time, which is under the boat, so he had to climb up the ladder to see what Mom was talking about.
He looked over the side of the boat, and there it was. Mom had sanded a hole clear through the woodwork.
Well, so much for saving time. Thanks for the help, Bonnie!
One Friday evening, my mom and dad and some of their friends were down at the yacht club bar. My parents had been members of the club for years and were well liked there; my dad, Gary, was so popular that they elected him "commodore." The way the bar worked was an interesting concept. It was an "honor bar," and I'm pretty sure it still works that way to this day. You make your own drinks, ring up your purchase, and then put your money in the cash register.
My parents were sipping their drinks at the bar when one of their friends mistakenly dropped his glass on the floor. The glass shattered, and the drink splashed the hem of my mom's pants. According to my mom, the poor man looked horrified. So in order to make him feel better, my mom threw her own drink up against the wall and said, "Isn't this the way they toast in Russia or someplace like that?" Hopefully, she was only drinking Russian vodka and not her typical White Russian because that would have been a horrible mess.
Other people at the bar followed her lead. They made silly toasts, and then one by one, they tossed their glasses over at the wall. I'm sure they figured if the commodore's wife could get away with it, certainly they could too!
I don't know how long this went on, but eventually the group of them came to their senses. Mom went to grab the broom and a dust pan, and someone else brought the trash can out. They spent the rest of the night cleaning up the "evidence" while having a good laugh at the same time.
The next morning, Dad stopped by the wholesale glass store. He purchased a case of new glasses to replace the ones they had broken. One of the other men at the party did the same thing. They now had more glasses then they had started with the night before.
All was well until a past commodore started shooting off his mouth about the current Commodore's conduct. Dad was putting the new glassware away when Ed leaned over the bar and began scolding him. Ed said, "Gary, I heard what happened last night. That was conduct unbecoming of an officer." My dad turned to him and said, "Are you kidding me? Aren't you the one who went skinny dipping in the Grosse Point Yacht Club pool?" Dad chuckled and continued, "Aren't you the one who stole a potted plant to cover up your nakedness?" Ed put his head down, and Dad laughed and said, "Ed, I distinctly remember you getting drunk and dancing all night with a broom you called Maggie!"
My dad said everything with a big smile on his face, and Ed didn't quite know how to respond. He simply shook his head and walked away. Not another word was ever mentioned about the broken glasses or about anything else for that matter!
What's in a Name?
My dad is a born salesman. That is to say, he has a line of "bull" a mile long. He can tell a story better than anyone I know, and he has been making us all laugh for years. He has some one-liners that he uses so often that my mom and I have begun to number them. It's a riot when he spouts them off to the kids who haven't heard them before. Mom and Lisa and I roll our eyes, but the kids think Grandpa is hilarious.
My dad could talk his way into the queen's palace and out of a speeding ticket. I remember getting into an accident back when I was sixteen and how my dad came to the rescue. I was heading to work that afternoon in my dad's truck. I was probably running late, which was typical. I was most likely driving a little too fast in the pouring rain. I stopped at the stop sign and was proceeding on when a big car, perhaps a Lincoln or a Cadillac, hit me in the rear side panel. I lost control of the truck and swerved toward the ditch. I was fine, and the other driver and his passenger were fine, but I was pretty upset. I had never been in an accident before. I was crying when the policeman showed up. I was trying to tell him what had happened when I saw my dad pull up. He must have been coming home from work. It was just good timing because this was back before cell phones.
My dad came over and gave me a hug, and I told him my side of the story. He told me not to worry, that accidents happen, and that all he cared about was that I was okay. My dad went over to talk to the police officer, and that was that. I don't know what my dad had said, but I didn't get a ticket, and I was truly grateful he had come along to help me.
Dad's charm is legendary at this point. He can make you believe practically anything. He could tell you the world is flat, and I assure you, you would be tempted to reconsider what you were taught in grade school!
Back when Dad was commodore of the Port Huron Yacht Club, he had many responsibilities, including attending some "fancy parties" as my mom used to call them. They went to some high-class affairs at very exclusive yacht clubs while Dad was in office. Mom says it was a little tough on their budget because she had to wear gowns to many of the events. She perfected her sewing and whipped up her own beautiful dresses. My mother is amazing that way. She can make a five-dollar piece of material look like a million bucks, and the best thing is nobody else will be wearing the same dress!
One particular evening, my parents attended a ball at the Detroit Yacht Club. My dad was talking to another Commodore at the party. Mom had wandered off somewhere, and when she returned, Dad tried to introduce her to the man. Dad realized he had forgotten the gentleman's name, which happened often, so he tried to pull off one of his tricks. He said, "Bonnie, this is Mister ... oh, I have forgotten how to pronounce your last name." The man looked my dad square in the eye and said, "Smith!"
I'm not sure what Dad said next, but you can be certain he dug himself out. He probably laughed and bought the guy a beer, and as far as anyone knows, they could have become the best of friends.
Dad was in the navy and Mom still lived with Grandma and Grandpa when I was born. Mom worked at a bakery while Dad was overseas, and she saved all her money and bought a lot one street over from my grandparents' house. Dad was only twenty-one and Mom nineteen when they built their first home in a small community on Lake Huron, in Port Huron, Michigan.
I remember every detail of the home I grew up in. It was a red brick home with three bedrooms and one bath upstairs and a laundry room and Dad's workshop downstairs. There were two fireplaces, one upstairs and one downstairs, and a big side yard where we made ice rinks in the winter and played baseball in the summer. I could see the lake from my north-facing bedroom window. I used to love to sit by my window at night and listen to the sound of the freighters blowing their horns. I loved the feel of the chilly north wind, and I would leave my window open all winter long, or at least until the arrival of the heating bill.
Many of the homes in the area were originally cottages owned by families from Detroit, but the neighborhood was changing from a weekend vacation destination to a family community. It was an amazing place to grow up. I have fond memories of my childhood and of our first home, but the thing I remember the most is the laughter. My parents were so young when I was born. They were really just kids themselves. They were kids raising kids, and they did it with a wonderful sense of humor.
Our home was modest, but we had guests almost every summer when we lived on Lake Huron. Sometimes my mom's cousins would come up for a month or so. They were about ten years younger than my parents, and they were full of the devil. They would baby-sit for my younger sister, Lisa, and me while my parents went to the yacht club or sailboat racing to earn their keep. They used to play hide-and-seek with us in the dark and play board games with us way past our bedtime.
Mom's cousins also pitched in on the chores. We all did what we could so that we could spend as much time at the beach as possible. My dad was a carpenter, and Mom was a homemaker, so she packed his lunch every morning. Dad is kind of a picky eater, so Mom usually made his typical bologna and mustard on white bread sandwich.
One summer, my cousins helped Mom come up with new and interesting sandwiches to make for Dad's lunch. Some of the sandwiches went from creative to downright ridiculous, including bologna with M&Ms. One time, they left the cardboard from the bologna on the sandwich, on purpose. Another time, they skipped the sandwich all together and filled Dad's lunch box with just Hershey's Kisses.
My mom also put little notes in his lunch box; some were silly, and some were romantic. Sometimes a note would say, "I love you, Gary. Love, Bonnie" or "I miss you! Hurry home!" and sometimes they'd say, "Pick up some milk."
My poor father never knew what to expect when he opened his lunch box!
I'm a Girl!
My best friend was another so-called tomboy who lived in our neighborhood. Lisa lived a few houses to the north of our neighborhood in one of the large homes on Lake Huron. She is the youngest of four children, and I think she might have been the apple of her dad's eye.
We spent hours laughing about nothing and giggling about absolutely everything. We were practically inseparable in junior high school. Most of what we did was innocent fun, but occasionally, we were troublemakers. We toilet-papered trees and soaped windows and made prank phone calls. We tortured one of my neighbors with constant phone calls. She was a mean old lady who used to chase us out of her yard with a snapping dish towel. We'd call her every time we saw her outside and hang up on her as soon as she answered the phone.
My mom used to laugh about it and say, "That mean old lady was old when we were kids, and now she's older and meaner!" My grandfather told us to put some dog manure in a paper bag, light it on fire, and throw it on her front porch. He said she would stomp on it, and the manure would fl y everywhere, and it would be all over her feet. We were never brave enough to do something as bad as that, but we did get into a certain amount of mischief.
Excerpted from Real Blonde Stories by Lori Bassel Copyright © 2011 by Lori Bassel. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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