Koz Fest memories sometimes a big blast, but never half-baked
Whenever family members get together after a prolonged absence, there will inevitably be three kinds of stories told.
The first are memories that you forgot about completely. Then there are your embarrassing moments that you hope everyone else has forgotten. (They haven't.) Finally, you have stories so good you can't believe you never heard them before.
I heard one from the last category when my family got together for our fourth annual reunion known as Koz Fest.
My sister Mary Jo told of the time she was a passenger in the car being driven by our mother. Dad was the other occupant.
The car passed a road sign that warned: "Beware: Explosions." A split second later Dad yelled, "Boom!"
It was a tribute to Dad's sense of humor that he was able to think of that so quickly. It was also a tribute to Mother's sense of humor - and self-control - that she didn't pull over to the side of the road and make sure Dad went "Boom!"
(I suspect that dealing with my younger brothers Phil and Dave and me when we born only 3 ½ years apart prepared Mom for keeping her cool in just about any situation.)
A few years ago, we recalled Dad's favorite saying while driving. He believed that the speed limit was something that should only be reached in an emergency.
Therefore, more than a few motorists zoomed around us. If someone passed us at an exceedingly high rate of speed, Dad would remark, "Go ahead. Hell's only half full."
Since the Koz Fest gathering was around Independence Day, we recalled the first -- and probably only - time Dad went golfing. It was a blazing hot Fourth of July when our foursome of Dad, Phil, Dave and me hit the links.
Dad walked untold miles in his lifetime - to and from work and just for the fun of traversing the town. So this meant he didn't mind the walking part of golf; he just minded the fact that you had to hit a little white ball before you could walk.
By the time we reached the back nine holes, Dad just wanted the whole thing to be over. On the 12th hole, he hit his tee shot and then strode off down the fairway while the rest of us took our turns at futility.
Dad was off to the side about 150 yards away when I teed off. Based on my previous efforts, that was more than a safe distance.
Unfortunately, I hiccupped as I swung and I launched a screaming line drive of a shot that looked as though it had infrared tracking as it curved toward Dad. He didn't have a chance to jump out of the way.
Dad walked the rest of the course with the impression of a golf ball - including the dimples - in his left thigh. However, there was poetic justice. I made the mistake of golfing in shorts and tube socks with the middle part of my pasty white legs exposed. At the party that afternoon, Dad had his golf-ball impression on his leg. My legs looked like two ham sandwiches on white bread with my sunburned knee areas between the pale white of my thighs and lower calves.
Of course, when families start to recount anecdotes and tales of dumbness from the past, story tellers have to use discretion when it comes to generations.
If the story involves something that was really stupid and could have resulted in serious injury, then there is about a 20-year waiting period before you can tell it to your parents. This usually assures that the folks will laugh nervously instead of passing out.
Now that my siblings and I have moved into the older generation category, some care has to be used about the memories we recount to the younger generation.
While members of the younger generation may have a story or two that they are waiting for the 20-year grace period to expire, we of the older generation do not want to give them any dumb ideas.
The following tale was told more as a warning against stupidity.
One of my brothers (who shall remain nameless on the advice of my attorney) and I returned home sometime after 2 a.m. on a summer night when we were both in college.
With all her sons accounted for, Mother closed her other eye and finally went fully to sleep.
The trouble began when we decided to cook a frozen pizza. Unsure of exactly what temperature to set the oven at, we chose one so high that the oven could have been used to smelt iron ore.
With that task done, we went into the living room, turned on the TV - even though there were no stations broadcasting at that time - sat down and promptly fell asleep.
We awoke in a cloud of smoke to see Mother through the haze rushing by us and into the kitchen. She immediately turned off the oven and removed what looked like a charcoal discus.
We told that story to teach the younger Kozlowskis two important lessons: My brother pointed out even though the oven temperature goes up to 500 degrees, you shouldn't try to see if it really does.
My lesson was even more important: Take the cellophane and cardboard off a frozen pizza before baking it.
(Walt Kozlowski, a freelance writer from Mount Carmel, composes "Walt's Way" for each Sunday edition.)