Monday, January 30, 2006


I just saw a commercial on TV advertising the release of the new movie “Bambi II.” It immediately made me think back to when I was young and saw the original “Bambi” movie. I cried my eyes out when the hunter shot Bambi’s mother. I think the movie emotionally scarred me for life.

I’ve always cried over sad movies. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been too embarrassed to show my mascara-streaked face in the theater lobby after watching a real tear-jerker. I also can’t count the number of times my husband has relentlessly teased me about it.

For some reason, he and my mother always have had a knack for finding the humor in sad movies and spoiling them for me. In fact, there have been plenty of times when they have caused me to want to slide underneath my theater seat and hide there.

For example, back when I was a kid, my mom took me to see the Disney classic, “Old Yeller.” It was a movie about a beloved dog that ended up saving the life of the boy he belonged to and then dying of rabies at the end of the movie (the dog, not the boy). The name “Yeller” referred to the boy’s slang pronunciation of the yellow color of the dog.

Well, my mother suddenly started to laugh in the middle of the movie. As heads turned toward us and eyes glared at us, I asked my mother why on earth she was laughing. She explained that the lead actress (Dorothy McGuire) had such yellow teeth, she’d thought that SHE was Old Yeller, not the dog!

Then there was the time I took my mother to see the movie, “Romeo and Juliet.” I’d already seen it once and had been so touched by it, I wanted my mother to experience the same intense emotion I’d felt.

My mother was fine until the scene in the square where Juliet’s nurse, wearing a huge, puffy skirt, came looking for Romeo. The guys in the square began to taunt the nurse, making faces at her and dancing around her. Then one of the guys, Mercutio, lifted a corner of the nurse’s skirt, stuck his head underneath it and came out holding his nose and gasping.

That did it. My mother dissolved into fits of laughter. She laughed through the wedding scene. She laughed through the death scene. She laughed all the way out to the car after the movie had ended. And to this day, whenever I mention the movie to her, she still bursts out laughing.

I’m pretty sure we made a lot of enemies in the movie theater that day.

When my husband and I were dating, I convinced him to take me to see “Love Story” at the Rex Theater in Manchester. About 15 minutes into the movie, I could tell from his sighing and eye rolling that he probably would rather have been sitting in a Laundromat and washing his socks.

He managed to keep silent, however, until Ali MacGraw’s death scene. It was supposed to be romantic and touching, a real Kleenex moment. But the minute Ali said to Ryan O’Neal, who played her husband in the movie, “Love means never having to say you’re sorry,” my husband could remain silent no longer.

He burst out laughing. “Give me a break! That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard!”

“Shhhhh!” I said. “This is the sad part! She’s going to die!”

“If we’re lucky,” he said, “he’ll put a pillow over her face and help her speed things along!”

I heard a few other men in the theater start to laugh.

An irritated-sounding “Shhhhhhhh!” came from the woman who was seated behind us.

Once again, I had to hide my face behind a box of popcorn as I left the movie theater.

When I sobbed through “Wuthering Heights” and the ending of “Funny Girl,” my husband mercilessly razzed me. And when I cried buckets over “Brian’s Song,” he called me a marshmallow, even though I thought I detected him swallowing against a lump in his throat a few times.

But then came the day when Hugh Beaumont, the actor who played one of the world’s most popular dads on TV, Ward Cleaver on "Leave it to Beaver," passed away.

"Leave it to Beaver" always had been my husband’s favorite TV show. He'd watched all of the originals when he was a kid and then all of the reruns (about 10 times each) when he grew up.

When my husband came home from work that night, I casually mentioned that Hugh Beaumont had died.

His face immediately paled, and to my shock, he burst into tears. “Noooo! Not Ward Cleaver! It can’t be!”

He spent the rest of the night sobbing and reminiscing about poor Ward. I honestly never had seen him so emotional about anything. The man practically needed a sedative.

The next morning, my husband looked beyond embarrassed. “Gee, I don’t know what got into me,” he said, shrugging. “I mean, after all, Ward Cleaver was just a TV character.”

Ever since then, he hasn’t teased me much at all when I’ve cried during sad movies.

Could it be that maturity finally has softened him?

Nah. It’s because he’s afraid I’ll tell all of his buddies about the Ward Cleaver incident.

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Sally Breslin is an award-winning humor columnist and the author of “There’s a Tick in my Underwear!” “Heed the Predictor," Inside the Blue Cube" and “The Common-Sense Approach to Dream Interpretation." Contact her at:


Thursday, January 12, 2006

The gift of creativity

Every Christmas season, I come up with what I think are unusual gift ideas. And every Christmas season, I end up having to return a few gifts before I even give them.

This Christmas season was no different.

You’d think I’d have learned my lesson from past disasters. For example, there was the wood carving of a buffalo that I had specially made one Christmas for my husband, the buffalo collector. Unfortunately, the carver had never carved a buffalo before, so the end result looked like something that had been in a horrible, disfiguring accident.

Still, the artist was so proud of his masterpiece, I ended up forking over a wad of money for it…and then hid the buffalo in the back of the closet, where to this day, it still remains. I can only hope that a nest of hungry termites has attacked it.

And then there was the round tablecloth I had a woman crochet for my mother. The center of the darned thing wouldn’t lie flat, no matter what my mother and I did to it. We tried stacking books on it, ironing it and starching it, and still the center continued to rise as if it were part of Houdini’s magic act. We were tempted to bring it outside and beat it with a stick.

Another gift disaster occurred when a glass blower at a mall told me he could make a set of miniature bowling balls and pins for my mother. At the time, I thought it was a great idea because not only was my mother an avid bowler, she also collected blown glass. The final result looked like a clear-glass turkey drumstick surrounded by skinny baked potatoes. When the glass blower first handed it to me, I honestly thought it was a replica of someone’s lunch.

This year, however, I wasn’t quite as creative. Still, I had problems.

We have a dear friend who collects pocket watches, so I bought him a pocket watch that had wood trimming encircling the face. It came in a matching wooden case. I decided to have the back of the watch engraved with, “TO BILL, CHRISTMAS 2005.”

A week before Christmas, I picked up the watch. The back read, “TO BULL, CHRISTMAS 2005.”

Then I bought my mother a pair of dainty pearl earrings. When I went to wrap them, I noticed that they were lying in the bottom of the case instead of attached to the velvet backing, where I’d last seen them. I picked up the earrings and discovered that the little slip-on backs were missing. I finally located them, loose in the case, and slid them back onto the earring posts. They immediately fell off.

I rolled my eyes. The earring backs obviously were way too big. I shoved everything back into the case and decided to head back to the jewelry store. That’s when my search for the sales receipt began.

I searched everywhere for that darned receipt, even outside in the trash barrel. By then, I was so frustrated, I was flinging trash onto the ground and shouting, “Come on! You’ve GOT to be in there!”

I could only imagine what the neighbors were thinking. Probably, “There’s Sally on her diet again, looking for stray M&Ms.”

I never did find the sales receipt, but I decided to be brave and return to the jewelry store anyway.

The female clerk seemed overly pleasant until I told her I had a problem with some earrings I’d purchased. Her expression immediately changed to something that looked as if I’d just told her I was dating her husband.

I explained that the backs of the earrings were too big and kept falling off. She opened the box and removed the earrings…and only one earring back. The other one was nowhere to be found. The clerk even turned the box upside down and shook it over the counter.

“It was in the box when I left the house,” I said. “Honest, it was!”

Her suspicious look told me it was highly unlikely that she was buying any of my story. I guess I really couldn’t blame her. After all, there I was, a complete stranger with no sales slip and a missing earring-back…a 14K white-gold earring back. I may as well have been the long-lost daughter of Bonnie and Clyde.

The clerk stared at me a moment, her eyes boring into mine. I suspected that her years of working with fine jewelry had made her develop a sixth sense, a built-in lie detector. I didn’t dare blink.

Finally, she silently walked over to a drawer, pulled out a small box and brought it back to the counter. The box contained earring backs of all sizes and shapes. She pulled out two and slid them onto the posts of the pearl earrings. They fit perfectly.

“There you go,” she said, her lips forming a taut line.

I got out of there, stopped and breathed a sigh of relief. Things, I told myself, definitely were looking up.

That is, until I decided to order a musical clock with little moving dancers in it for our friends in New York.

But that’s a whole other story…