The informant is one of five children. He has two older sisters (one of which is now deceased), one older brother, and one younger brother. His mother is in her 80’s, and his father has been deceased for many years. The family has been in southern California since the children were born. The family frequently gets together at his mother’s house for holidays like Easter and Christmas and family jokes present themselves often.
The joke explained here is one that started in the 1960’s by the informant’s maternal grandfather. In addition to asking the informant and his siblings questions like “Are you married yet?” and “So where are you working?” when they were children much too young to have a spouse or a job, he would also tap their shoulders and say “Forsee did it!” Forsee was the grandfather’s wife. Other small things like accidentally bumping into something or dropping something would also be explained by saying that Forsee did it. This was done in a teasing manner, not a mean-spirited manner. My informant remembers his family talking about his grandfather saying this joke moreso than remembering specific incidences where he witnessed his father saying that Forsee did something. This continued long after the grandfather and grandmother had passed away. Though the frequency of the joke has lessened in the last few years, the informant also tells the joke even when he is not at an extended family gathering and is just in his own home with his own wife and children, though he does so rarely. Though the joke is told relatively often at family gatherings, it is almost always followed by a discussion of how that joke started with the grandfather, even though it is discussed at almost every family gathering. I think it is explained mainly for the benefit of whatever new friend or boyfriend one of the younger generation has brought to the gathering, to bring them “into the family” just a little bit.
This joke speaks to the relaxed nature of this family. Joking around is encouraged, even by the older generation and many family dinners end with loud laughter. There is also a lot of teasing that goes on, both by younger members and older members of the family. Family gatherings are never formal, and the younger cousins often eat on the couch in the living room instead of bothering to get a folding chair out of the closet. Overall, the jokes like the one focused on here and the informal nature of the events really show the relaxed and comfortable nature of the family relationships.