Hey Mom

by Tina Kilbourne from Bracebridge, ON
Aug 30, 14

This summer we took our holidays, as we always do, at the end of August. Although the weather is riskier than in July, it means we have a chance to do all the summery things we meant to do and didn’t get around to. It means we can end the summer feeling confident that we coaxed every drop of fun out of the glorious warm weeks. 

So it was, that this August, we arrived at the family cottage in Temagami on a cool, cloudy, windy day. We lugged everything up from the boat and inside, then unpacked the groceries and water toys. It was good to be back. I dug out the hammock and a sleeping bag and I set myself up on the front deck to read a book I had been saving for the occasion. 

The book was humorous, so there I was, overlooking Lake Temagami, reading and laughing, and laughing and reading. It wasn’t hot and it wasn’t sunny. But the moment was perfect. Or so I thought. Until my son arrived and wanted to climb into the hammock with me. My son is a squirmer, and a talker, and a dreamer. So I thought I’d enjoyed the last of my idyllic moment. But because he’s almost 11 and pulling away from the cuddly little boy I already miss, I welcomed him and continued to read. At least I tried to read. 

I was a few sentences back into my story when he asked me whether I would rather die in a zombie apocalypse or the kind where the world blows up?

“The kind where the world blows up,” I answered absently. 
“It would be a lot faster.”

He’s going through a phase where he likes to make me choose between two absurdities. He rarely seems to care which one I pick. 

I continued reading. 

He continued dreaming. 

And squirming. 

We adjusted positions. 

The wind continued to blow and a herd of woolly clouds migrated steadily overhead. Every so often a few rays of sunshine broke through and danced among the branches above our feet. 

“Hey Mom?” he said.

“Would you stay at a hotel called the Green Banana? Like, if it was built in the trees and the only way you could get to your room was to swing by vines, and you had to put your luggage inside a basket attached to a pulley and pull it up. And it would be environmentally-friendly with solar-powered trampolines that jumped for you.” 

As he stopped to catch his breath, I admitted the hotel sounded interesting: “Sure, I’d stay there.”

Then I picked up my book. I was about to start reading again, when …

“Hey, Mom?” 

I laid down my book – yet again – and glanced at him.

“Did you know that in Japan they sell watermelons shaped like pyramids?”

I paused and thought for a moment before admitting that I didn’t know that. As he drifted back into his dreamy world of aliens and zombies, jokes and random facts; I …returned to my book.

A few seconds passed before: “Mom?” 

“Have you ever heard of Lord Gandhi, of the India Indians?”

I couldn’t help myself. I started to laugh. I was already primed for laughter by my book, but the laughter that came gushing out of me came so hard that even I was startled. It felt good. Sometimes work and life take over and the laughter seems a long way down. I threw my head back and I laughed until my stomach hurt.

My son looked at me and scowled. He asked if I was laughing or crying.

“Laughing,” I gasped, as I gulped back a lungful of oxygen.

“But what’s so funny?” he said. 

The bewilderment on his face made me laugh even harder. This time he joined in, though he had no idea why. 

The fact is, he just likes to laugh. That’s the charm of 10-year-old boys. They understand the world is a better place when people are laughing. 

“No, really. Mom! What’s so funny?” Like me he was gasping for breath.

I knew he wanted to know exactly what was so funny, play by play, so he could use it again sometime on someone else. It is, after all, his number one mission in life – to get a laugh.  

“YOU!” I managed to squeak, finally. “If I had a million guesses, I would NEVER be able to guess what you are going to say next.”

“Oh,” he said, suddenly wordless, suddenly unsure if he was being offended or flattered. 

I saw the concern in his eyes, the flicker of self-consciousness. But I couldn’t stop myself. I was lost in the kind of laugh you can’t stop, the kind that takes hold in the most inopportune times, the kind my brother and sister and I used to get caught in during church sermons.

Before long, he had joined in again. We both continued, with renewed bouts every time I remembered his random series of questions – questions that I know will soon enough dwindle away and leave me with a teenager, and then a grown-up. 

I laughed until I cried. The tears were for the child I would one day miss. I wiped my eyes and looked over into his smiling face.

“I’ve never seen you laugh like that,” he said, proudly.

Eventually our laughter played itself out and we were left, tired and quiet, with the windy afternoon blowing past us. He sighed with contentment and gazed into the sky.

I picked up my book. 

But only a few minutes passed before he said “Hey, Mom.” 

Before he could say another word, we were both laughing again.