You know that thing that your dad does, the thing that is always funny? It becomes the joke, the thing that he has to do when the opportunity arises because it’s the funny thing he always does. And his kids wait with baited breath for the punch line so they can grab their guts and screech with laughter.
In my house as a kid, the funny thing would happen when my mom pulled a hot made-from-a-box-but-somehow-still-exceptionally-yummy chocolate cake out of the oven. The cake would sit in the middle of the counter waiting for frosting, wafting its sweet smell through the house. All six of my siblings and I would walk by every few minutes to see if my dad had done his funny thing.
Without fail, when it came time for my mom to frost that cake, there would be a perfectly square piece taken right out of the middle. When my mom finally noticed, she would gaffaw and yell, “Richaaaaard!” As my dad would wipe his mouth trying to cover his smile. “What?” he’d yell back, “That was the best piece.” And each kid would crumble in laughter.
Years have gone by, we are all grown, but that joke is still funny. No one else can pull it off—believe me we’ve all tried. But my dad, he has that joke nailed down.
Most of the time that piece would come right out of the middle. Sometimes though, he’d make it extra funny by cutting his piece into a weird shape or taking it out of a random place on the cake, asymmetric and hysterical.
To this day, whenever I see an untouched cake on a counter, I feel a little excitement sneak up in me. I can almost feel myself looking around for my cake-eating dad. He still strikes every now and then, just to bug my mom and get the grandkids giggling. My mom still plays along and we all still laugh way more than the prank merits.
There is something comforting about the predictability of that joke. As a little girl. that predictable funny made me feel like our household was in harmony. As an adult, that inside joke makes me feel for a moment that nothing has changed, that I am still a little girl whose whole evening is focused on chocolate cake and cracking up at my dad – uncomplicated and delicious.