Mario Stories

that albino boy

THE REQUEST: Write about an inside joke you had in your family

Here's a cute little story for you. And this one is fun, because it features two of my very favorite aspects of my childhood.

This story features both:
A) My mom having the attention span of a small squirrel
B) My brother and I always having a million little inside jokes

So anyway... sit back, kick your feet up, and enjoy this quick little recap of maybe our favorite inside joke of them all.

It's time to hear the story of my mom and... (and you have to whisper this to say it correctly)... "that albino boy."

that an albino boy

I don't remember where the legend of that albino boy first started, exactly. It was probably somewhere around 1983. Maybe 1984 at the latest. Probably right around the time that we moved from Spokane to Bellevue. And I don't know what his name was, or where we first saw him. All I remember is that, at some point in the mid to late 80s, there was a kid with albinism who lived a couple of blocks away from us.

If you're familiar with Bellevue at all, he probably lived somewhere around Crossroads.

Crossroads Mall in Bellevue. My home.
Try the Mexican food at Torero's, it's the best.

And anyway, here's how I remember the legend of that albino boy first beginning.

One day, in either 1983 or 1984, my mom is driving my brother and me up to the mall. Which was a pretty regular occurrence at that time. Dom and I were ALWAYS up at Crossroads Mall. And because we were kids, and because we had no access to a car, our mom was ALWAYS driving us.

So we're in our car. And we're driving up to the mall. And as always, because my mom is a chatterbox, she's talking a mile a minute. Just yammering on and on and on about whatever the hell is going in her mind. Just jabbering away. And because my mom is very, very loud, and because Dom and I are very, very the exact opposite, the two of us are just sort of sitting quietly in two of the passenger seats. Just sort of staring out the windows.

And this was where we were first introduced to... that albino boy.

Note: I'm going to paraphrase this next part, because I can't remember exactly what my mom was saying, verbatim. But this is a pretty good simulation of what it was like to sit in a car with my mom.

Mom: "And that's why baker's chocolate is the superior chocolate. And it's why you want a REALLY high yeast load if you want your pies to turn out like grandmas. And oh look, there's a sale on cherries at Albertson's, think we should go get some? Dommy, need any help with your Thanksgiving project? And hey, I saw Auntie Olga in Puyallup the other day, and she has a present she wants to give to..."

And then suddenly, just like that, my mom was struck silent.

She just suddenly STOPPED.

Because it turned out she had seen something.

And then, before she could say ANYTHING else, her voice dropped down a whisper. Barely even audible at all.

All she could say was...

"there's that albino boy."

Albinos. Forever distracting my mom.

Now, to put things into context, keep in mind that Dom and I were probably only six and eight years old in this story. At that age, we had no idea what the fuck "an albino boy" even WAS. As far as we were concerned, "an albino boy" was a kid who bought albums. All we knew about what had just happened was... our mom had been talking. About gophers or Nicaragua or whatnot. And then... suddenly... she had STOPPED talking. And then she had whispered some vague warning to us about there being "an albino boy."

So Dom and I looked up over the dashboard. And we're like, oh. Neat. There's a kid with white hair.

And I'm being a hundred percent serious here. This was the only time Dom and I were ever even SLIGHTLY interested in fact that we had just seen "an albino boy." Because I mean, seriously, spotting an albino kid in the wild is a lot like falling in love. It's exciting the first time. But the only one you ever really remember is your first.

But god bless my mom, you know. And god bless her weird little verbal quirks. And god bless the way she always whispered whenever she saw this one kid.

Because for the next ten years of our life, for Dom and me, this now became our favorite running joke.

Rule #1: Don't have weird little verbal quirks when THESE two are in the back of your car

So yeah, anyway, this became our new running joke.

ANY time we were driving around Crossroads, and we saw that albino boy, my mom would always have to comment on him. ALWAYS. And she would always drop her voice down to a whisper, and say it the exact same way. She'd be in the middle of a monologue about horseshoes, or scrimshaw, or whatever, and then she'd suddenly cut herself off. And pause. And stare. And drop her voice down to a whisper. And say to us, almost warning us, "...there's that albino boy."

And Dom and I would just giggle and giggle and giggle. Because mom didn't realize she always said it the exact same way.

She didn't realize that, unbeknownst to her, she had basically just invented a meme.

So anyway, if you want a good idea of what it was like for Dom and me growing up around Crossroads, just imagine this scenario happening over and over and over and over. Many, many, MANY different times, over ten years. Just sooooooo many variants of "hey look kids, (whispers) it's that albino boy." And Dom and I found the whole thing so funny that, eventually, as we got older, we literally just started trying to bait her. Like Groucho Marx, we eventually started BAITING OUR MOM just to get her to say the super secret phrase.

Want an example of this? Well here you go. This is what it was like when Dom and I would talk to our mom when we were (in my mom's words) snarky, rotten little teenagers.

Me: Hey mom, can you give me a ride home from school today?
Mom: Sure. What time?
Me: Well, I need to be home by three, because I'm meeting a friend.
Mom: Really? Which friend?
Me: I don't think you know him. He's this kid with white hair.
Mom (dropping her voice to a whisper): you mean that albino boy?

(meanwhile, there's Dom off to the side, trying not to crack up.)

Want a second example? Well here's another one. Like I said, this was always a game with us. It was always fun to see the most creative way we could do it.

Dom: Hey mom, there's a new kid on my baseball team.
Mom:  Neat. Do I know him?
Dom: You probably do, he lives right down the street.
Mom: Is it Kevin?
Dom: No, it's actually (he drops down to a dramatic stage whisper) that albino boy.
Me: (off to the side, just absolutely laughing my ass off)
[Mom just sort of looks at the two of us. Looks back and forth between us. Knows we're making fun of her now.]
Mom: Rotten kids.

Albinos. Once they get into your head, you're done.

I wish I could sit here and tell you all the little ways we tricked our mom into whispering "that albino boy" over the years. But alas, sadly, I can't. My memory is good, but it's not THAT good. I can only remember a couple of them. But suffice it to say, Dom and I eventually got really REALLY good at it. Over the years, it became our favorite little game. And because mom fell for it every single god damn time (like I said, we picked our spots, and we were quicker than her- we were good), she eventually started to get annoyed by it. She didn't like the way we turned everything she said into a meme.

Side note:  If it makes you feel any better, my kids now do this exact same thing to me. They have an entire running list now of their favorite "stupid dad memes." So let's just say it's a Lanza family trait, to make fun of your parents, and we'll leave it at that. This is just what Lanza kids DO.

My kids now, picking on me. Rotten kids.

Although I can't remember ALL the times Dom and I turned "that albino boy" into a punchline over the years, I CAN remember my favorite two times. And I suppose I'll wrap up this entry now, with the best of the best.

Here are the two times I laughed the hardest at someone in our car referencing "that albino boy."

Special side note before we get to the finale: Oh yeah. Please note that, even to this day, I still don't know WHO that albino boy was, where he lived, where he went to school, or even what his NAME was. I don't know ANYTHING about him. All I know is that my mom accidentally turned him into a meme one day because he distracted her while she was driving. And if there's one thing you never wanted to do around my brother and me, it was say something goofy in front of us in the car. We would ALWAYS take note of it, and we would ALWAYS remember it. And anyway, that's why I wanted to say that if the infamous "that albino boy" ever reads this entry, and he realizes we are talking about him, I hope he doesn't take any of this personally. We had no idea who you were. In fact, we weren't even making fun of you, we were making fun of our mom. I hope you've had an incredible life.

And with that being said, here are my two all-time favorite "hey look, it's that albino boy" moments.


We're driving up to Crossroads Mall. And I'm about fifteen years old. And Dom is with us, in the backseat.

Mom: And that's why North Dakota is the best of the Dakotas. It's because it's like America, everyone gets an opportunity. And did I ever tell you that begonias are my favorite plants? I really like begonias, I should get some bego...
[She suddenly pauses, when she notices a stranger walking along, on the sidewalk]
Mom: Hey look, there's that..
Me (cutting her off): Yeah, we know. There's that albino boy.
Mom: Right.
Me: Hey mom, can I ask you something about that albino boy?
(I can already hear Dom giggling in the backseat. He's excited to hear where this conversation is going to go.)
Mom: Sure.
Me (genuinely curious): Why do you always whisper when you say "that albino boy"?
Mom: Well, because I don't want to be rude.
Me: What do you mean, you don't want to be rude?
Mom: I just think it would be mean if someone pointed out he was albino.
Me (trying not to laugh): So you don't think he's aware he's albino?
[Mom remains quiet about this]
Me: I'm pretty sure he's aware he's albino, mom.
Dom (helpfully piping in from the backseat): I hope he didn't learn it from us. That would suck.
[Now Dom and I are just openly giggling at her]
Mom: Well I don't care. I just think it would be rude.
Me: Then why do you keep doing it?
Dom: Yeah. You could NOT comment on it.
[Mom just remains silent]
Me: I'm pretty sure if you didn't point out there was an albino kid standing there, we'd probably figure it out.
[Now Dom and I are just openly giggling again]
[Mom finally turns her head and looks over at us]
Mom: Rotten kids.

Rotten kids

But at the end of the day, I have to say that the GREATEST "hey look, there's that albino boy" moment had to be this last one, from my brother. It pains me to say that it came from him. I mean, again, I was the firstborn Lanza grandchild, and Dom was just some random two year younger commoner. But NO ONE ever played the that albino kid game better than this last one. After this LAST one, there was nowhere left for the game to go, but down.

So anyway, take it away, Dom. End this entry, you young whippersnapper.


Guess what? We're driving up to Crossroads Mall one day. And it's just me, Dom, and my mom in the car. Only this time I am a little bit older. I am pretty sure I was eighteen in this one. So Dom would have been sixteen.

... Like I said, that's why Rhode Island was the best of the colonies. I mean, they had tariffs, they had lobster, they had freedom. And it makes me wonder, what if we got some blueberries down at Blueberry Lake? I bet if we had blueberries, I could make Blueberry Pie. And wasn't Huckleberry Pie the most handsome of the Strawberry Shortcake kids? I really thought Humphrey should have probably beaten Nixon. Because you know, Nixon...
[And then mom pauses. And stops talking. Because holy shit. That meant she had seen him.]
[And here it comes, you guys...]
Mom (in her usual whisper):  
look, there's that albino boy.
[Dom and I just sit there this time, and we look at each other. Because neither one of us knows whose turn it is to say something funny.]
[And of course mom braces herself in the front seat. Because she's WELL aware we're going to make some snarky little crack about it. Ten years into the game, and she's WELL aware by now where we stand. One of us is about to hit her with some zinger.]
[And I guess we decided that today was Dom's turn.]
Dom (politely): Mother?
Mom (very tentatively): Yes, my beloved son?
Dom: Can I ask you something?
Mom: Of course. You can ask me anything.
Dom: I was just wondering, mother. When you say that, why do you whisper?
Mom: Well, because I don't want him to hear me.
Dom: Yeah I understand that. But can I tell you something?
Mom: Sure. You can tell me anything.
[So Dom just leans forward from the back seat. And he gets as close to my mom as he can. And just like mom always does, he lowers his voice to a whisper. Barely audible.]
Dom: (whispering): I just want you to know that we're in a car, and we have our windows rolled up. He can't hear us.

And anyway, love you mom. Thank you for always being such a good sport about this.

Rotten Loving kids

Oh yeah and P.S., in case you're curious. Yes, I inherited the exact same ridiculously short attention span as my mom. In fact, if you have a moment, let me explain to you why Munich is so much better than pancakes. In fact, wait. What's that? Holy crap. there's a rainbow!

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