This boomer redefines “family values”

We all have different ways of getting through a crisis. For author Janet Garber of Somers, New York, that means comedy. She says hers, and her friends’, is based on family values.

Can you top this?

Those of us who like to dally on the dark side, comedically speaking, often indulge ourselves in a game when in the presence of our peers. As soon as we gather together, out come the stories of family dysfunction. And the competition begins:

Oh, that’s nothing! My uncle married and divorced five (5) times. Three of those times were to my aunt!

Hmmph! My uncle Jack lived with my mother’s sister on the first floor and had his mistress on the second. Did I mention that the two women were best friends?

We think Joey may have killed Amy’s second husband who was hitting her. He got away with it and wound up marrying her.”

My mother used to come after me with a broom.”

Janet (standing) with friends Elaine Wolff, Al Cossin, and Phyllis Cossin.

They’re wacky stories and most of them (not all), harmless. We like listening to and repeating them to reassure ourselves that everyone in our circle experienced some degree of nuttiness in our original households. Yet we still turned out okay.

Didn’t we?

My mother was very competitive with her best friend, Sonia. First she stole the letters Sonia got from her long distance boyfriend, saying, ‘He’s too good for you.’ Months later she stole the boyfriend himself and wound up marrying him. For an encore, 50 years later give or take, after Sonia had passed on, Mom divorced the first guy, my father, and married Sonia’s husband. How about that?

I remember my mother sending me out to the movies all day. If I came back early, she’d drop four cents out the window so I could go back and buy myself a comic book. There was some guy hanging around with her while Dad was at work…

Ever notice how his little sister is the only one in the family with brown eyes?

Janet with her husband, Shelly Hanner.

My friends and I have grown into middle age, still trying to deal with our pasts, even our childhoods. It’s a little ridiculous, we realize, to complain of hurts we endured as children when some of us are grandparents and soon to be great-grandparents. It’s enough to make you question whether functional families exist at all.

Oh, yeah? My Aunt Bea would force-feed her three kids— all obese today. You could hear them screaming from blocks away. She said she just wanted fat American babies.”

His father told him that he really did not want children; he had only had children because his wife wanted them. ‘But then I wouldn’t be here now, Dad!’ the son protested. ‘So what?’ his Dad replied. ‘Big deal’.”

Maybe it’s a good thing we only get one set of parents.

Will someone please pass the fruitcake?


Janet’s book is, “Dream Job: Wacky Adventures of an HR Manager.”


  1. Having grown up (as most here did) watching Father Knows Best, The Donna Reed Show, or Ozzie and Harriet, I used to wonder what was wrong with my family until I got old (and out in the world) enough to realize those television “families” were the anomaly and WE were perfectly normal!

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