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.



Daily Prompt: All Right

Daily Prompt:  Tell us about a time when everything seemed to be going wrong – and then, suddenly, you knew it would be all right.

I thought my world was ending the night of my car accident.  After a stranger hauled my kids out of the wreck, I couldn’t see or hear them anywhere.  I kept begging the EMS workers to tell me where my kids were, but all they would tell me was “they’re fine.”  But where are they? “They’re fine.”  Are you lying to me?  “They’re fine.”

The guys wouldn’t look me in the eye.  Now I understand that it was because I had no idea just how bad the situation was, and that most of them thought I wouldn’t survive the night.  But at the time, I assumed they were covering up some dire information about my babies.

The youngest was okay; he’d been home with his father at the time of the accident.  My daughter was shaken up but unharmed.  But my oldest son had some minor injuries – lots of glass in his left shin and hand, and a small gash on his right shoulder that needed a few stitches.  I never got to see him at the hospital, and I just couldn’t get rid of the nagging suspicion that they were lying to me about him.  I couldn’t convince myself that he was okay.

Then the doctor came back in with the results of my CT scan and dropped the bomb:  My neck was broken.  It was bad.  He couldn’t help me at our very small hospital.  “I have never seen an injury like this on someone who was still alive,” he told us.

They had to send me to a bigger hospital, but my son was already being treated at the local one.  They had to separate us, and there was just no way for my husband to be with both of us.

My boy was twelve years old.   He needed his father more than I needed my husband at that moment, and I had to go alone.

I was afraid to be alone.  Afraid to leave my kids.  Afraid of dying.  Afraid of being paralyzed.

When they wheeled me into that tiny room at Bronson Hospital and I couldn’t see anything other than the ceiling above me, I felt like I was hanging on by my fingertips.  I wanted to be unconscious.  If I hadn’t been strapped down and restrained at every extremity, I would have leaped from that bed and run screaming through the halls.

They kept asking, “Is anyone coming to be with you?  Is there anyone I can call?”  and I would tell them no.  Husband couldn’t be there.  There was no one else.  I’d tell them it was okay, not to worry.  But it wasn’t okay.

Then I heard my sister’s voice.

Now, I have to digress here for a moment. My oldest sister is only four years older than I am, and she has set the rule that I am not to refer to her as big sister, older sister, oldest sister, or any variation of those terms.  Once I hit thirty, she made it very clear that we are all three the same age from here on out.  We are all three adults, and she will not tolerate any comments that make reference to the fact that she is older than I am.

I don’t usually think of her in terms of age.  We are equals, and she has become one of my best friends.  But when I heard her voice in the hospital room that night, she wasn’t my equal.  She was my Big Sister, and everything was going to be okay.

I could break it down and point out all the reasons why her presence made everything better.   But it came down to one important fact:  She is my Big Sister.

And I knew everything was going to be okay.

There were so many people who stepped in; I couldn’t have gotten through all of it without my Mother-in-Law, Brother-in-Law and his wife, the neighbors and friends  who brought food and helped carpool the kids around, etc.  But that one single moment that turned it all around, that let me know things were going to get better, was the moment when my big sister showed up to take care of me.

Now, if only she’ll forgive me for telling the world which one of us is older.