You know that line about those who forget history are doomed to repeat it? Well tonight kind of made me think of that. Let me set the scene as best I can.
The year is somewhere around 1976 or ’77. Your hero (that is me) is a young schoolboy. Happy, well adjusted and glad to recite all of the Welcome Back Kotter lines with his friends, “up your nose with a rubber hose” was a personal favorite.
My family is at home. My sisters and I are involved in different activities around the house. At some point in time my middle sister and I have a disagreement about something. I can’t remember what I did, but like a good big brother I really aggravated her. She hauls off and belts me in the mouth. It doesn’t hurt, but it does knock out a loose tooth.
I am infuriated by this. Looking back I think that I was more upset by the idea that my little sister got one over on me than anything else.
Flash forward to the present. The family is at my folk’s house. It is filled with aunts, uncles and cousins. I hear my son scream and he comes marching up stairs holding his mouth. I see blood and ask what happened. He hands me a tooth and tells me that his younger cousin kicked him in the mouth and knocked out his tooth.
That younger cousin just happens to be the youngest child of the sister that knocked out my tooth. He is truly sorry and tells me repeatedly that it was an accident and it probably was.
A little bit later all if forgiven and forgotten and we go to light candles. I bask in the glow of the lights and the smiles on the faces of the kids. We finish the blessings and the kids run and sit in the living room. I look at my father and say that he should get ready to play grandpa.
We walk over and my son tells me that they are all ready to get their gifts. I look at him and say that we’re not doing gifts tonight. My niece looks at me and says, “don’t tease us Uncle Jack.” I smile and tell her that I am not.
Jaws drop and confused looks from the children are pointed towards us. My son takes the lead again and says that it is not funny, the joke is over. I assure him that tonight there are no gifts and then the heavens unleash a torrent of young voices upon us.
I quiet them down and remind them that the holiday is not only about gifts. I give them two minutes of patented parent P.R. and add a dose of guilt. And then I remind them that another reason we are not exchanging gifts is because not all of their cousins are there. Not to mention that the good news is that they will get gifts the next night.
Kids shrug their shoulders at me and grumble for a moment. I offer a free kick in the pants or punch in the nose. No one takes me up on it. They run off to play and I look at my father.
“What are you looking at,” he asks. I tell him that I want his opinion on how I did. He smiles, pats me on the shoulder and says “you’re learning.” I smile back and tell him that it is still ok for him to give me a gift that night.
He smiles and sticks out his hand. I place my hand in his, knowing what is coming.
And the lesson here is that old family tricks never die, even those that still aren’t funny. Ok, I laughed, but that is a long story in itself. We’ll save it for a different day.