Archive for Sunday, August 14, 2005

Goff: Make no mistake: Goofs will happen

August 14, 2005


Misteaks ... oops ... mistakes happen! Everybody makes them. Almost everything I know, I've learned by messing up the first time and vowing not to make THAT mistake again. And I usually don't because I'm too busy making another one.

Blondes make a lot of really dumb mistakes. I know this because so many people e-mail me blond jokes. But I think we natural (once-upon-a-time) blondes get a bum rap because I recall going to school with a great many brunettes who are now blond. Those former brunettes are making mistakes that blondes are getting blamed for and, frankly, I'm pretty ticked about it.

But it isn't just blondes, women or dim bulbs who make mistakes. Men and smart folks with good educations also make them. When lawyers or financial advisers make mistakes, it usually costs their clients a lot of money. When doctors make mistakes, the results can be fatal. My cousin recently gave me some letters my mother wrote after my father's death. In one of the letters written to her sister, Mom wrote that Dad - a lawyer - once said he'd like to see a tombstone inscribed: Opened by mistake by Dr. So-and-so.

Although it's hard for some of their students to believe, even teachers make mistakes. When he was in junior high, my son, Greg, came home with a spelling list on which the word holiday was spelled with two L's. He argued that the spelling was correct because his English teacher made out the list and she couldn't possibly be wrong. I had to get the dictionary to prove she was.

I had good reason to know the correct spelling of holiday. When I was in ninth grade and just beginning to fall madly in puppy love with Ray, the boy I later married, our English teacher customarily had us give our weekly spelling tests to the student in front of us for grading. The word holiday was on one test, and I spelled it with two L's.

Ray, who sat in front of me, returned my paper showing a perfect score; he had erased my two L's and replaced them with one. I quickly changed it back to two L's, giving myself a minus one. I smiled as I did so because I realized that Ray liked me - he really, REALLY liked me! Even now I don't know if I changed the word because I was an honest kid or because you simply cannot replace two L's with one and make it look like it was written that way in the first place.

Nothing gives more satisfaction to an inferior cook than hearing about a goof by a great cook. My culinary mistakes are legend, so I was gratified to learn my friend Betty, a superior cook, realized one Thanksgiving that she had made a mistake of omission when her sister-in-law came into the kitchen, carrying a piece of pumpkin pie missing a single bite, and asked, "Is this a new recipe?"

It wasn't, but it tasted like it because Betty had forgotten to mix sugar with the pumpkin. All you creative cooks who are thinking "Hmmmm" would do well to follow Betty's advice not to try sugarless pumpkin pie. Her exact words: "It really sucks!"

When we were building our home several years ago, one subcontractor told me that he made a mistake installing six-panel doors in his house because his wife never dusted them. A mistake he DIDN'T make was saying that in front of his wife.

Sometimes an honest mistake can land you in a pile of trouble. Many years ago, Dad's friend Walt, a county attorney in western Kansas, visited Lawrence. Dad generously gave Walt the keys to his own car, parked on the street in front of his office, with instructions to pick him up later on campus. When Walt arrived in the pale green Buick, Dad realized that - even though the keys started it and the exterior was identical - the car wasn't his. A quick call to police confirmed the car had been reported stolen by its owner. Dad's car was where he left it, a few parking spaces from where Walt "stole" the other.

Decades later, I felt Walt's pain when my mother and I, arms laden with packages, climbed into a copper Buick Regal. The fact it was unlocked was the first clue it wasn't my car. Then my keys didn't work and the sunroof was missing. Mom and I guiltily exited and hurried three spaces down the street to my car. Later, I learned that the car was my friend Erma's beloved "Beagle."

When I make a mistake, I try to forget it and move on ... mainly because I am confident the future holds an infinite supply of mistakes I will make.

- Marsha Henry Goff is a freelance writer in Lawrence. Information about purchasing her book, "Life Is More Fun When You Live It Jest for Grins," is available by calling 843-2577 or e-mailing


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