This story was published online. See it here!
by Beth Hawley
My 16-year-old daughter races into the kitchen, tosses her pom-poms to the floor and buries her face into my shoulder. Thinking this is yet another cheerleaders squabble, I “there-there” her like I did when she was 3 and had skinned her knee. My husband momentarily glances up from watching his NASCAR race, and I silently shake my head (couple code for “I’ll take care of it”).
“Okay, Emma, what happened this time?” I ask, “Did Cherie get the front spot again?”
“No, the class turtle died!” was the mumbled reply I heard from under a mass of hair-sprayed curls and tightly wound ribbons.
John looks up from his race again, a slight smile creeping across his face. I silently point a finger at him (yet another code; this one is “don’t start, or she’ll just cry more”).
“Oh honey, I’m sorry that happened. When did you find out?”
Emma steps back, dramatically wiping tears with both hands, “I was there! I saw the whole thing!”
Now granted, my daughter is at the age when everything is a huge deal. Numerous afternoons have been spent calming her down after one high school ‘tragedy’ or another. However, since our family had lain to rest quite a few feathered, furry and reptilian friends, I couldn’t see why this would have set Emma off in such a way. I couldn’t say this to her, however, for fear of facing “the Hulk”. “The Hulk” was much more wearisome than “Sad Emma”. So instead I say, “Oh honey, I’m so sorry you had to witness that. Was he old?”
“What? Yes, pretty old I guess,” she replied, a catch in her voice as she starts to calm down.
“Why don’t you sit down and tell me all about it. I’ll get you some milk.”
“I don’t want milk!” Oh God, here it comes, “Don’t you get it? He’s dead! He was here with us one minute and now he’s gone!”
“Emma, I don’t really see why you are getting so upset. I didn’t even know you had a class turtle.”
The tears suddenly stop and she just stares at me in shock. Then without warning, she busts out laughing. I am at a loss for how to respond. John actually gets up, comes into the kitchen, and stares at this wild creature we call ‘daughter’, “Emma, are you alright? You’re starting to scare your mother and me.”
She waves us off, unable to speak. The tears are now from her inability to stop laughing. John and I just stare at each other (code for “maybe we should call a therapist”).
Finally, Emma stands upright, and with a half laugh/half cry states, “I didn’t say ‘class turtle’, I said ‘Coach Tuttle'.”
Incredible Hulk ® is a registered trademark of Marvel Characters Inc. and Marvel Comics Group.
Photo by Jonathan Zander [GFDL (www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC-BY-SA-2.5 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons