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Family stories are the lifeblood of our get togethers. When the conversation lags, someone will say, “Do you remember the time…..” We also have inside jokes such as “Pulling An Uncle Ben” or “Okay Turley….” So I’d like to take this opportunity to tell you a couple of my family stories.

My mother’s mother was an only child who had an uncle named Ben. Ben was a confirmed bachelor. He’d been engaged for ten years, but had told the family he’d never get married. Women cost too much money! He was a notorious tightwad, and he outlived his sisters. So it was up to his niece/my grandmother to keep track of him.

When his sister Bertha died, he arrived on the bus in his overalls and work boots. Oh no, my grandmother said. Oh no, this will never do. She sent my grandfather to the store with Uncle Ben to buy him a new suit for his sister’s funeral. My grandfather got out of buying dress shoes though, and lent Uncle Ben a pair. Grandpa never saw those dress shoes again.

My mom remembers going out to eat with her parents and Uncle Ben. When it came time for the bill, Uncle Ben was either in the bathroom, or spending a great deal of time reaching for his wallet. By then my grandfather knew getting money from Uncle Ben was like getting blood out of a turnip, so he would pay Ben’s bill too. Years My uncle and my dad were still joking around when the bill came at the restaurant, claiming they needed to go the restroom, or having a hard time pulling out their wallets. Trying to get out of paying your fair share is called “Pulling an Uncle Ben” in our family.

My dad remembers as a kid they were on a party line for telephone services. For you young people, when the telephone first became public, multiple families shared one telephone line called a party line. This meant only one conversation could take place at a time, and a polite neighbor would hang up the phone after realizing a neighbor was engaged in conversation. But of course not all neighbors are that respectful of privacy.

Turley Grogan was one of my grandmother’s party line neighbors. Not only did Turley listen in on the conversations, he’d ask for a summary if he came in late. Many times my grandmother would be on the phone talking when Turley would interrupt her. “Hey Mattie, this is Turley Grogan. Yeah, I didn’t hear the beginning of the story-could you repeat it for me?” So in my dad’s family, if a person walks in late to a story and wants the part missed repeated for him, we get to call him Turley Grogan.

We have put pen to paper and preserved our family stories, but these two aren’t among them. They aren’t stories really-they’re inside jokes. But I think in many ways they are my favorite because you have to be truly part of the family, an insider, to know what they mean. And explaining them to the newcomers brings up lots of memories as well.

We have a new inside joke in my dad’s family, courtesy of my cousin’s daughter’s boyfriend. We hope he will continue to join our family events, if only so that we can keep the inside joke alive. Last weekend we were all together and playing a giant sized Jenga game. Jenga is a stack of wooden blocks in the form of a tall tower, and players then take turns pulling out blocks one by one until the whole stack crashes down. Boyfriend innocently made the comment that you must treat the Jenga tower like a woman, and use gentle hands. And there it was-another inside joke! For the rest of the weekend we took turns making comments about different tasks and situations that required gentle hands. We also had to comment on Boyfriend’s gentle hands. I do hope he returns to the next family gathering.

Please comment and let me know your thoughts on this post-do you have any inside jokes in your family?

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