“Aunt Fern told me a story, an embarrassing lesson she learned, when she was a young school girl,” my 91 year old mom started, as I gently held her hand, listening to an old memory of hers. (Note: this was a conversation that happened 4 years ago, as my mom is now 95 years old.)
“She told you the story while you were living with her in Los Angeles? When you were a young girl?” I questioned.
“Go on,” I urged.
“Well, when she was a about ten years old, and this was around 1906, mind you, she was walking to school, just like I had to when I ended up going to the same school as she did.”
“Really? You went to the same school as Aunt Fern?” I asked.
“Uh huh. Different decades, of course,” my mom made clear.
“Any-way,” my mom wanted to continue.
I nodded encouragement.
“Everyday, she had to pass the prison located next to the school. Aunt Fern saw prisoners sitting down, resting, she assumed. They were sitting on those huge metal balls that were chained to their ankles.”
“Seriously? Sitting right there? Out in the open? As people walked by? Near the school?” I was amazed.
My mom nodded her head, up and down. She looked like she had just realized how strange that was, for prisoners to just be sitting there, out in the open, so exposed.
“Weird,” I said.
“Hm,” she seemed lost in thought. But then she added, “I guess that was normal back then. Well, as it was, Aunt Fern just walked by. She didn’t say a word. Why would she, really? She just walked past the men sitting down and entered the school grounds. She strolled into her classroom, exclaiming, ‘Those men out there are sitting on their balls.'”
“Everyone busted out laughing, the teacher included,” my mom’s eyes lit with humor, as she finalized her story. “Aunt Fern was confused,” my mom giggled. “She didn’t understand the concept of what she had said. The meaning behind it.
‘What’s so funny?‘ Aunt Fern had asked a school mate, a wise girl who explained the importance of word choice.
She was so embarrassed. She told me all she could do was simply lower her face into her hands and close her eyes. She rocked her head side to side, waiting for all the laughter to die down.”
My mom smirked then looked at me. Whereby I began to laugh.