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I Know You Are, But What Am I?


"When God was handing out brains you thought he said trains and you said, 'give me the caboose." "If you put your face on a doormat no one would come in." "Your armpits smell so bad the teacher gave you A just for keeping your hand down."

I'd almost forgotten the witty repartee of jokes and gibes traded by the 10-and-under crowd. Until I chaperoned for my son's field trip, that is. And then the world of "burns" (to coin a phrase from my youth) came rushing back to me; and I have to admit, the memories put a smile on my face.

I remember one major theme in my childhood "burn" banter involved one form or another of "cooties." He has "cooties," she has "cooties," don't touch me because I don't want your "cooties." We even had to avoid certain areas on the playground because they were known to be breeding grounds for the dreaded "cootie." Sure, there were cootie vaccinations, but why take the chance? Cooties were bad and extremely hard to get rid of. And from the conversations I overheard on the bus, this hasn't changed over the past few decades.

Another hot topic was (and apparently still is) anything to do with the human body. "Is that your face or did your neck throw up?" "Your feet are so big you don't need water skis." Ringing any bells?

The one thrown my way a lot when I was a kid had to do with my cursed curly hair…"Brillo-head," or "Your hair is so big when you sit in the front of the class people can't see the chalkboard," to which I had the oh, so clever reply of, "I know you are but what am I?"

I guess this kind of chitchat is part of being a kid. I remember being told quite often, "Aw, your mother wears army boots!" and always laughing. The fact that barb came from my dad may have bothered my mother at times, but it always tickled me (and still does). So as I listened while these wacky taunts were traded back and forth, each kid coming back with his or her own stinger followed by peals of laughter, I couldn't help but giggle every once in a while. It was kinda like being on a bus with a bunch of young Rodney Dangerfields.

It was cathartic for me to be on the bus that day with all those fourth graders; watching their eyes shine as each one thought of "a good one" and hearing the belly-laughs that only come with gibes like, "Your sister is so fat when she sat on a nickel a booger came out of George Washington's nose." It brought back memories of the carefree childhood laughter and camaraderie that comes with sharing a joke and a chuckle.

So I laughed and smiled and even came up with my own "good one" when the inevitable "your mama" jokes came into play.

"Your mama's so dumb the mind reader gave her 50 percent off," I heard one of the kids say to my son.

And in the spirit of clever wordplay, I turned to deliver my smug and oh-so-witty comeback, "I know you are but what am I?"

BAM!

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