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Knock, Knock
By
gypsy

Knock, Knock

The orange doesn't fall far from the tree...

Knock knock!

Who's there?

Banana!

Banana who?

When my brother was a little boy, he loved Knock Knock jokes. Maybe all kids do, but Jack went through a period where he couldn't get enough of them. He loved hearing them, learning new ones, and springing them on people. Delivering the punch line gave him immense pleasure, each and every time. The cornier the play on words, the better. The louder the groan the joke solicited, the happier he was.

The one person who may have been immune to indulging him in his comic bent was our grandmother. Although she had a great sense of humour, which I didn't realise until many years later, jokes and plays on words were not something that appealed to her. Jack would subject her to his Knock Knock and she would respond kindly, letting him know she thought it was "nice". Her indifferent reception was usually softened by offering him cookies, which were always gladly accepted.

We spent our summer vacations with Grandma, at her cottage. Often there would have been work done on it before our arrival, either repairs or modifications, and consequently plenty of scraps of wood usually lay stashed underneath it. From the time Jack was about five or six, he would scrounge odds and ends of wood, nails, screws and bits of wire. Then he would borrow some tools from Grandma and get to work on his various carpentry projects. Among his building ambitions there were bird houses and rafts, none of which, sadly, were ever inhabited by birds or stayed afloat.

His most memorable project, however, won him the everlasting love of one of our neighbours. She had a fat, lazy old Spaniel, whose bowls for food and water were kept outside on her kitchen stoop. That dog made a real mess when eating, and usually had bits of food stuck in the fur around her muzzle. Jack made a wooden feeding station, with a spot for the bowls and a vertical backboard. On the backboard he nailed an old scrap of tea towel so that the dog could wipe her muzzle clean after eating. He tried in vain to teach her how to use the bit of cloth and clean up that grotty muzzle of hers. It annoyed and disappointed him that she just couldn't be bothered doing it.

Learning at an early age that you can't teach an old dog new tricks must have been frustrating to him, but learn it he did.

Knock knock!

Who's there?

Banana!

Banana who?

A few years later he became a Cub Scout and in time, a Boy Scout. Once there, he was old enough to go on hiking and camping trips. The scout master was a neighbour, a large, bearded, jovial man.

He was great with the boys, and they loved him. He treated them with respect and encouragement, instilling in them the confidence to try new things without fear of failing or not doing something correctly. At the same time he oversaw the outdoor activities and made sure that the boys were safe. Day trips later became overnight hiking adventures. Overnight camps later turned into week long trips with all that entailed: roughing it under canvas, canoeing, cooking over a campfire, and then returning home dirty, smelly, smoky and happy.

Equipment was required for the scouting activities, and most of Jack's was paid for with money he earned himself, delivering newspapers. One of the first things he bought was a backpack. Compared to those available now, it was pretty simple — an ordinary looking canvas bag with a flap closed by leather straps and buckles. It had canvas shoulder straps, and the Scout logo was stitched onto the front. No pockets, no loops in which to hook things such as an axe, no special holder for a canteen. It was a basic, simple, sturdy canvas pack. I don't even know if the straps were adjustable in length, but he was pleased with that sack and used it with pride.

He’s always been generous, even as a kid. He'd help you out if you asked him, and was willing to share what he owned. After having had the backpack for a year or so, a neighbour girl, who was about 16 or 17, was going on a three-day hike and camping trip. Jack offered to lend her his pack, since she didn't have one, and she gladly accepted.

When she came over to our house to return it after her trip, he asked her how it had been. That may have been a mistake, because she launched into a list of complaints about it — the straps were uncomfortable, they needed some padding, they were too long, the pack wasn't big enough, it was difficult to walk uphill because the full weight of it settled against her lower back and knocked against her, it chafed, it wasn't practical, it got wet with the dew. The list went on and on.

Patiently hearing her out, he finally suggested that the next time she went hiking, she could take a suitcase.

Knock knock!

Who's there?

Banana!

Banana who?

A grown man now, he has a great sense of humour and still loves jokes, both telling them and hearing them. If he teases someone it's done gently, with affection, and is never mean. He's always been trusting, and when he was a little boy, and then a teen, he would repeatedly fall for a joke played on him time and time again by our uncle. Uncle Joe would point a finger, touch the front of Jack's shirt, and say, I see you had eggs for breakfast. Jack always looked down, usually in surprise since he rarely ate eggs at breakfast. At that point, Joe would run his finger up the shirt, over Jack's chin and up his noise, making a whirring sound as he did so — brrrrrhhhpppp!

Jack would go beet red with annoyance, directed not so much at Uncle Joe for playing the joke on him, but at himself, for falling for it yet again. He always vowed he would repay Joe in kind some day. Now that he's an adult, I don't know if he ever did.

True to his childhood passion for building and making things, he has become an accomplished carpenter. Not only is it his stock in trade, but he has both built and renovated houses for himself and his family over the years. The last house he built was finished in the months following the birth of his twin daughters. That was some few years ago, and since then, he has decided his house building and renovating days are behind him. Free time away from his job is precious to him, and he wants to spend as much of it as possible with his family. The girls are young, just seven, but growing fast.

Due to a job change, Jack and his family moved several thousands of kilometers not long ago, driving across country to their new home. For part of the way they drove in tandem with a friend, until their paths diverged. They had walkie-talkies in each vehicle, and apparently Mark, the other driver, was treated to a steady stream of Knock Knock jokes, thanks to my nieces. The girls have reached the age where their language skills are becoming more sophisticated, and like their father, delight in the word play that is the backbone of these jokes.

We live far from each other, but stay in close touch, thanks to the convenience of modern technology. I talked to and saw them in this way over Christmas. The girls settled down beside Jack in front of his computer and we had a good visit. They enumerated all the presents they had been given, then asked, without prompting, what both their uncle and I had received. Among other things I told them he'd gotten socks — the kind without holes in them. That gave them the giggles and they said their dad had been given socks like that too.

Finally the moment came to wrap it up, which is how I expressed it. The reply to that from one of the girls was that we would need ribbon. Neither my brother nor I understood what she meant, and so she repeated herself, spelled it out: I had said we needed to wrap the conversation up, so obviously we needed ribbon to do so.

That is precisely the sort of thing my brother himself would have said at that age. Moreover, my niece showed just as much patience as he would have done when faced with slow, dim-witted adults who didn't cotton onto the play on words.

Knock knock!

Who's there?

Orange!

Orange who?

Orange you glad I didn't say banana?

Indeed, the orange doesn’t fall far from the tree.

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