Embarrassment is every family’s legacy.
Sunday, April 21, 2019
During my middle school years, my parents always used to invite my mother’s eccentric Uncle Bill to our house for Sunday dinner on Easter and other holidays. I don’t remember much of anything about Uncle Bill — except that he somehow managed to find ways to embarrass me in front of my friends.
Since I was still too young to drive, I would inevitably ask my parents to take me to some friends’ gathering following the obligatory family meal. It was equally inevitable that good-hearted Uncle Bill would somehow convince me to let him drive me in his aged vehicle, which always seemed to smoke and backfire. So he would deposit me at the appointed location, in full view of my schoolmates, and leave me to watch with flaming cheeks as his car belched away down the street.
My own parents seldom embarrassed me in public, although when I was in the second or third grade and we happened to be in a restaurant or drive-in, my father was forever trying to get me to wink at girls I didn’t know. I was indignant but not mortified at those attempts because I steadfastly refused to do it.
But even his efforts remind me of the ways I have managed to embarrass my own kids in front of their friends. On a day when families often gather and reminisce, I think it is incumbent upon each of us to reflect on how we can best embarrass succeeding generations, don’t you?
Does lack of intention count for anything? Not to be outdone by the aforementioned Uncle Bill, I once managed to similarly humiliate my daughter by pulling up in front of her middle school at the end of classes, lightly tooting the horn to signal my presence — and having the horn stick in full “full blare” mode as she threw herself into the car, ducked down to the floorboards and cried, “Drive ... Drive!”
My wife outdid even that move by once picking up this same daughter in front of middle school as our youngest son, wearing a multicolored clown wig and red nose, leaned out the backseat window, loudly firing some kind of clattering toy gun.
While automobiles offer many possibilities in terms of embarrassing your family, they are not an absolute requirement. Sometimes all you need is a rambunctious pet on a leash and an assemblage of onlookers.
One day when my two younger children were expecting to be picked up by car from middle school, I decided to surprise them with an offer to walk the half-mile back to our house with me and a free spirited, juvenile black Lab named Bruno whom we were temporarily foster-parenting. So I walked over to the school, towed by Bruno.
When he saw the boys emerge, Bruno bolted. Pulling the leash out of my hand, he went scampering under the portico of the pick-up area with me in hot pursuit. My sons, meanwhile, had mysteriously vanished from sight.
I later found out, having walked back home with Bruno but no accompanying progeny, that they had slipped back inside while I was preoccupied with the dog. There they huddled in a classroom, waiting for me, Bruno and all their witnessing classmate to disperse.
When I musingly ask my wife, “What do we do to embarrass our (six) grandkids,” she has a simple answer. “We breathe and we attempt to operate hand-held devices.”
Bob Garner is a UNC-TV restaurant reviewer, freelance food writer, author of four cookbooks, barbecue pit master and public speaker. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.