When my children were in elementary school they attended school in Port St. Joe, a small village along the Redneck Riviera. I have mixed feelings about my years there largely due to the way in which a single mother was too often viewed and treated. If I hadn't been a strong woman I believe on many occasions I would have either been destroyed or defined by a particular event, yet I somehow always let those times strengthen me and broaden my horizons. My children seemed to follow suit and learned at a young age how to use their heads. I have to admit they always seemed to amaze me every step of the way and never disappointed me in how they always managed to shine even when shining wasn't what they should have done.
My youngest child, Matthew was a quite precocious. He was always up for a good challenge so when he announced to me one day that he wanted to be in a PTA sponsored talent contest, it didn't surprise me. My only question was what he was going to do for talent. You see, although I have always thought my children were the brightest amongst all the stars, the Jackson 5 they were not. Matthew simply told me he was going to be a comedian and that was the last I heard about it for several weeks.
Then one day Christina, his only sister and the oldest of my three children came rushing into the house as soon as she got off the school bus. There in the doorway she stopped with her hands firmly planted on her hips. She looked at me and said, "You aren't going to believe what your son did today!" Uh oh! There wasn't any "my brother" or "Matthew" about it...at that moment he was my son and only my son so I knew he had done something pretty outstanding and probably something memorable. She started telling me about the semi-finals for the talent contest that had been held earlier that afternoon in the school auditorium. A panel of four teachers were appointed to select the best of the best who would compete in front of the families later that night. All the fifth graders thought it was great because they were excused from class so they could watch the selection process.
When it came Matthew's turn, he sheepishly meandered up on stage. Christina's friends all pointed out, "Hey, there's your little brother!" Matthew took center stage and began his stand up comedy routine with the following joke: What has a hundred teeth and guards the incredible hulk? His punch line was "my zipper". Immediately, the auditorium filled with laughter! Now, it wasn't that he had told an inappropriate joke that embarrassed his sister. It was the fact that all four of the teachers laughed at his joke. With her hands still firmly planted on her hips she said with utter disgust, "And they laughed!" Needless to say Matthew was not selected to perform in front of the families although I have to admit the night would have been more memorable if he had performed.
About that time Matthew came in the house. Please tell me how does a mother explain to a 5 year old white version of Eddie Murphy what's appropriate and what's inappropriate? How does one rip away the joy he must have felt from accomplishing what all comedians live to do? After all he had accomplished his goal. He got the audience to laugh! All I asked him as he came in the house was if he had anything he wanted to tell me. He stopped momentarily and thought for a second before getting a quizzical look on his face and simply told me,"No." I left it at that and figured I'd address his choice and source of jokes another time.