Bye, Spot

The last really good belly laugh I had was just last night.  Or early this morning, I guess I should say.

It took a while to get Little Man to bed for the night.  He has been up much too late the last two nights because of different 4th of July celebrations, and he was having a hard time turning off all of the internal engines for a night of rest.  No, that boy was ready to party on when he should have been sound asleep.

When he finally passed out, I settled in on the couch with a book and my can of Tab (yes, I cheated on Diet Coke), enjoying the silence that can only be appreciated after spending two hour with a six year-old who keeps insisting “But I’m not TIRED, Mom!”

That’s when the other two came downstairs.  Just as nature abhors a vacuum, my teenagers apparently abhor silence.  Of any kind.  If there is silence there is trouble, they seem to feel.

“What’s the matter, Mom?”

“Why is it so quiet?”

“Are you upset?”

“Is something wrong?”

I have great kids.  Noisy ones, but great.  They were worried about me.

They plopped on the couch with me and we spent the next two hours giggling over YouTube videos of Steve Harvey and some idiot woman who thinks rainbows in the sprinklers are part of a government conspiracy.  We swapped horror stories about Driver’s Ed, and made fun of each other, particularly my vertical challenges when it turned out I was too short to blow out the candle on the entertainment center.  We laughed over stupid, unimportant, inconsequential things.

I laughed so much my belly hurts this morning.

Who knew my kids were so much fun?  When did we reach this stage in our relationship?  I feel as though I’ve been inducted into a secret club that previously existed only between the two of them.  They are fourteen months apart, and as different as two siblings can be, but they have their own little world that that I have never been invited into before now.

Last night’s laughter took me back to my teenage years, when my mother would go to bed early and my sisters and I would become idiots.  We’d bring out the Monopoly board for marathon sessions that didn’t start until nearly midnight, and nobody ever won.  We’d get lost in laughter and stupidity, usually ending when one of us would flick the little Scottie dog across the room as part of a long and complicated “Mr. Bill” joke that ended with a loudly whispered “Bye, Spot!”

We weren’t innocents, not by a long shot.  Over the years, we broke so many bottles of Boone’s farm and TJ Swan under the bed of the purple bedroom that I’m surprised we didn’t get a contact buzz from the alcohol fumes that permeated that room.  We never got the idea that shoving our contraband under that bed wasn’t a safe or smart way to hide it.  In fact, I remember late night laughter about christening the carpet that became inside jokes about the Christian side of the room vs. the Jewish side.

I guess you had to be there.

The point is that most of my fun memories of laughing with my sisters didn’t involve alcohol.   We laughed at stupid things that were really funny to no one but us.  It was our own secret language; an exclusive club open only to the Hyde sisters, although an occasional Crawford, Lockwood or Thayer joined in once or twice.

The club closed down long ago.  We all got married and divorced, had children, argued over too many things.  We never figured out how to find the fun, how to keep the laughter alive.  We forgot the punch lines to our own inside jokes.

We grew up.

We stopped laughing together.

We grew apart.

My sisters and I are as different as my children.  The shy one became the ultra-confident career woman.  The outgoing one became her own person and created her own family from her network of friends.    And the bookworm?  The tagalong who was so busy trying to be like her big sisters that she forgot to figure out her own identity?

Well, I’m finally growing up, too.   I stopped trying to copy Susan’s quiet elegance and sophistication, stopped mimicking Barbara’s effervescence and charm, stopped trying to be what thought I should be, and started figuring out who Amy is.

I’m a writer.  I’m a single mom.  I’m a decent cook and a great quilter.  I tell too many stories and I have a tendency to forget that I am not the center of the known universe.  I have some amazing friends that I don’t always deserve because they are better friends to me than I am to them.

I have great kids who let me into their private club for a brief time last night, and I have the aching stomach muscles to prove it.  And when they grow up, my most heartfelt prayer is that they never, ever forget the punch lines to their inside jokes.



Time Flies

Your local electronics store has just started selling time machines, anywhere doors, and invisibility helmets.  You can only afford one.  Which of these do you buy, and why?


A time machine, of course.  No question.

I’d love to say I would be altruistic and use a time machine for the good of the world:  Save the Titanic.  Unload the Eastland before she tipped over.   Kill Hitler before he gained power.  Tell E.L. James to get out of fanfiction and write her own damn book.

You know, the kind of actions that could prevent untold human suffering.

But I’ve read enough Science Fiction to understand that altering the past like that could have terrible consequences. Besides, I think I’ve established here in my blog that I’m basically a pretty selfish person at times, so let’s just accept that I would use a time machine for my own selfish purposes.

I’d go back to Woodland Elementary and pants a little boy named Tripper.  Totally humiliate the little bastard and warn him to leave my six-year-old self alone.  While there, I might also warn Leroy Butler to stay off the monkey bars in order to avoid shattering his jaw during recess, and I’d have a nice sit-down discussion with my mother about sending me to school in home-made “Stretch-N-Sew” polyester clothes.

I’d go back and tell my high school self to stop worrying about being fat and unpopular and just enjoy herself.  I’d tell her to give up the crush on a boy named Bucky, because in thirty years he will still be with the same perky little blonde — who will still be perky and blonde (and much nicer than I ever gave her credit for).  I’d point out the skinny, geeky science nerds and hint at all of the wonderful things puberty is going to do for some of them in a few years.

I’d tell her to savor the moments with Dee, Dawn, Aaron, Dale and all the others who are going to be gone too soon.

A time machine would give me a chance to go back and tell my college-aged self that dropping out of college is the stupidest thing she will ever do in her life.  I wouldn’t tell her just how many other stupid things she is going to do, but she should know that her future will be a mess if she doesn’t get that degree.

I’d tell the young, starry-eyed bride at my wedding to dance with Dad. It’s just one song, for God’s sake.  Not for him; for her.  She needs to understand that he is a good man who did the best he could, and that he never stopped loving his daughters.  She needs to forgive him, and she needs to realize that he doesn’t have much time left.

I’d tell that same bride to keep a closer watch on her marriage and recognize when things start going bad.    Get out sooner, before they hurt each other as much.

On the subject of hurting people, I’d tell myself to name the jerky ex-boyfriend character in Her House Divided  “Lester” instead of “Randy.”  Trust me on this one.  Sorry, Randy.

I’d let the air out of all of the tires of both of our cars on June 21, 2011, so that my kids couldn’t go to Christian Fellowship that night.  Better yet, I’d make a call to the Van Buren County Road Commission a week earlier and tell them to cut down a certain half-dead maple tree on County Road 388 before it falls in a storm and hurts someone.

I’d go back and tell Doug Adams to stay off the treadmill and see a cardiologist.  Beg Kurt Vonnegut for just one more story.  Tell Jim Henson it’s not the flu; go see a doctor.

I’d tell myself to gossip less, laugh more.  Say “I love you” as much as possible, even when no one says it back.  Tell my sisters I love them, no matter what.  Both of them.  Read more books from unknown authors.  Eat less, exercise more, and don’t lose touch with old friends.  Don’t wait for the universe to drop a tree on my head to make me understand that I am loved and I matter to a lot of people.

Of course, if I did all of those things, I wouldn’t have the chance to gain wisdom from the experiences, and my present-day self wouldn’t know what to do with the time machine.  Wouldn’t have the advice and warnings to give . . . which means nothing would change.  Or everything would change. . .

I think I just understood the theory of a Moebius Strip, but only for a second.  Then it was gone and now my head hurts and I suddenly remember why I don’t write Science Fiction.

So let’s just say I would use my time machine to travel back to 1973 so I throw myself at Randolph Mantooth.  Then again, I’d be old enough to be his mother then, and I’m not sure I could pull off being a cougar.  And now my head hurts again.

Screw the electronics store.  I’ll spend my money on Toblerone and Diet Coke.