Are you wondering what subjects are acceptable in polite conversation? It seems there are so many pathways leading us into a swamp of quicksand. Here is a broad subject you can safely navigate. Ask about their worst times. Offer up some specifics; the worst meal they created or ate, the worst grade they received in school, the worst motel they stayed in, the worst movie they saw. Chances are time has turned these experiences into humorous events.
I remember my worst sewing mistake. My father was 5’ 11” with a wiry build. His arms belonged on a linebacker, requiring a 36” sleeve. It had become increasingly difficult to find his preferred Western style shirts in a Medium size with a 36” sleeve. I had successfully sewn many tailored shirts, even for my dad. For Christmas 2008, I purchased a bright red denim and found the well-worn pattern in my sewing box. I laid out the pieces, measuring the sleeve length of 36”. I sewed the top-stitching perfectly, aligned the Mother of Pearl snaps with care, added the stitching on the pocket for his ever-present pencil with the clip, and cut the shirttail long, just as he liked.
As I carefully wrapped my gift, I imagined his face brightening into a broad smile as he lifted the lid and unfolded the tissue paper, knowing he would have a shirt that ended at his wrist instead of pulling four inches up his forearm. As he lifted my gift up from the package, I thought the sleeves looked odd. Dad hurriedly removed his 32” sleeved shirt and tried on my gift. We all laughed long and hard. The end of the sleeves reached 2 inches below the tips of his fingers!
What had happened? After some discussion with my mother, I realized I had forgotten men’s sleeves measured from the nape of the neck, not from the shoulder. I promised I would take it home and fix it, but try as I might, it was impossible. He never got another handmade shirt from me, but we still have the precious memory and the photo. I imagine he is laughing even now on the other side as he looks over my shoulder.