There are many reasons for a man to be proud of his grandchildren, as I am of my three, who are beautiful, smart, loving and, even though the eldest is only 4 years old, more mature than their grandfather.
Now I can add one more reason: My grandson, Xavier, at the tender age of 4 months, is a Three Stooges fan.
I made this delightful discovery recently when my wife, Sue, and I took a road trip to visit Xavier, who lives with his mommy, Katie, and daddy, Dave.
The moment of revelation occurred on a sunny morning in Katie and Dave’s bedroom, where I was watching Xavier while everyone else got ready for a day of fun, frolic and, of course, infantile behavior. And I’m not talking about Xavier.
Anyway, I was upstairs with him, cooing and babbling (so was he), when Dave entered the room and said, “Having some guy time?”
“We sure are,” I answered.
As Dave left to go back downstairs, he said, “If I hear any Three Stooges noises, I’m rushing right back up.”
Answering the challenge, I did my award-winning Curly imitation, snapping my fingers and making funny faces as I exclaimed, “Nyuk, nyuk, nyuk!” and “Woo, woo, woo!”
Xavier smiled and started to wave his arms and kick excitedly.
I told him that many years ago I was first runner-up in the National Curly Howard Sound-Alike Contest (I won $100 and some Stooge paraphernalia in the telephone competition, whose winner was never identified and must have been an inmate somewhere).
I also told him that I once attended a Three Stooges convention in Pennsylvania and again was first runner-up, this time in the Curly Shuffle Contest, which was won by a 4-year-old girl.
Xavier furrowed his brow as if to say, “Poor Poppie. What a knucklehead!”
Then I imitated my favorite Stooge, Shemp. I inhaled deeply and made the famous Shemp sound: “Ee-bee-bee-bee!”
Xavier — this is absolutely true — laughed out loud. I did it again. He giggled uncontrollably.
“I am so proud of him!” I said to Dave when he rushed back upstairs. “Xavier loves Shemp!”
Dave, a wonderful young man with a terrific sense of humor, kindly refrained from poking his father-in-law in the eyes.
“The surest sign of maturity in a man, if indeed it ever happens, is when he comes to appreciate Shemp,” I told Dave. “Xavier is starting at a young age.”
Just as the late, great original Stooge has a new fan, so does the new fan.
“Xavier is my little man,” said Junior Bush, who lives across the street and is known as the mayor of the neighborhood.
Junior, 73, a retired revenue collector, doesn’t have kids of his own, but he does have 10 nieces and nephews who look up to him as a father figure. Everyone on the block loves him.
I found out why when Junior knocked on Katie and Dave’s door to warn me that my car would get ticketed and towed if I didn’t move it for the street sweeper.
“I’ll give you my parking space,” Junior said.
I found the lone remaining spot across the street, so I didn’t have to take up Junior on his nice offer, but I appreciated it.
“I love Katie and Dave,” Junior told me. “And Xavier is just the cutest.”
“I’ve been teaching him about the Three Stooges,” I said.
Junior chuckled and replied, “You have to start them early.”
Despite Dave’s fears, I have. Every time I did my Shemp imitation, Xavier laughed. At least a dozen times over the next few days, whether he was in his car seat, on the changing table or in my arms, when I said, “Ee-bee-bee-bee,” he let out a baby guffaw.
The next time we get together, I am going to introduce Xavier to Moe, Larry, Curly, Shemp and the other Stooges on video. Will he love them even more?
In the immortal words of Poppie doing his Curly imitation, “Soitenly! Nyuk, nyuk, nyuk!”
— Jerry Zezima
Jerry Zezima, who served on the faculty at the 2010 EBWW, writes a humor column for the Stamford Advocate that is nationally syndicated through the Tribune News Service and regularly appears in the Huffington Post. He’s written three books, Grandfather Knows Best, Leave it to Boomer and The Empty Nest Chronicles. He has won six humor-writing awards from the National Society of Newspaper Columnists and was named EBWW’s Humor Writer of the Month twice. He is the past president of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists.