The Yo-Yo Theory: Chapters 3-4

Chapter 3

Kristine and I were back up in the tree house. Dinner had wound down with a variety of safer topics, followed by a few rousing games of Uno, and a movie. I felt like a teenager again, or rather, the teenager I was mentally, before Kristine’s genius had thrown our lives for a (hopefully) temporary loop. It reminded me of the many evenings I had spent with the Mitchell family, playing card games, watching movies, and just feeling like part of something. I loved my own family, and when I got together with them, things were fun too. But they were so far away.

My dad was in the Marines, and we’d moved around quite a bit in my younger years. Mom’s old high school friend lived in the Mitchell’s neighborhood and we had often gone to visit, especially when my father was on assignment. With nine kids in my family (and me smack dab in the middle), I guess my mom liked the extra help that “Aunt” Maddie provided. Not to mention the fact that at age 50, she and Maddie would still giggle like schoolgirls any time they were together. And since Aunt Maddie had never married, she loved the chance to be around so many kids.

I’d made friends with Kristine at church when we were seven, and after that, whenever we’d visit, I’d spend the majority of my time at the Mitchell’s house. The summer before I started high school, my father had been wounded in Iraq. A terrorist bombed a school bus one day while he was delivering donated school supplies. A little boy, barely big enough to conceal the explosives strapped to his body, had blown up himself and 57 classmates. Some of the shrapnel had hit my dad in the spine and left him temporarily paralyzed from the waist down. I didn’t blame the kid like my older siblings did. I blamed the narrow-minded prejudices of people around the world that led to wars and acts of terrorism. That little kid was a victim too. But that’s another story altogether – back to the task at hand. When my dad got sent home, he and mom decided to move to Buckton so that we’d have the support of Aunt Maddie.

Kristine and I had become even better friends, and my childhood idolization of Kaleb had become a full-blown crush. I did have one older brother (and three big sisters), but Frank was barely a year older than me and was more of my rival than the big brother type. Kaleb had tolerated Kristine and I tagging along as he traipsed around town, doing “guy” stuff. Once, I had fallen off my bike and sprained my ankle pretty badly as we tried to keep pace with him and his friends. He had carried me in his arms all the way home, not saying a word, and had then gone back for our bikes. After that, I was hooked. Kaleb could do no wrong.

By the time I was a sophomore, my dad had managed to regain some use of his legs and he and Mom decided to move to Baltimore so that Dad could get treatments at the Johns Hopkins hospital. They felt that I’d been uprooted enough, and gave me the option of staying with Aunt Maddie in Buckton until I graduate high school. It was hard to let my family move so far away, but it had been the right thing for me to do. Plus, I still had my surrogate family: the Mitchell’s. By my current mental time reference, it had only been a few months since I had last seen my family, during Spring Break. I suddenly remembered that I didn’t know anything about where they were at this point in time. This was ten years later. Had my dad recovered? Had he gone back into active duty? Were there still only nine kids in my family? Sheesh! I could have siblings that I didn’t even know.

Halfway through the movie, an old John Wayne flick, I had slipped outside with the cell phone I had found in what I discovered to be my purse. It had the same banner message I’d started using when I got my first phone when my parents moved, so I knew it was mine. I opened up my contact list and scrolled down to “The Fam”. It was only 8:00 Colorado time, so it was after 11 if they still lived in Maryland. As the phone rang, I started to think about what I would say. It sure was frustrating not knowing anything about the previous decade.

A familiar voice came on the line. “Hi Mom.” I couldn’t help but smile. Time didn’t seem to affect the ability to recognize your own mother’s voice.

“Anne honey! I’m so glad you called. Happy Anniversary! I’m so excited to see you all next week. Especially those girls! I’ll bet they’re huge now. Are they walking yet? They were getting the whole crawling thing figured out when we saw you at Christmas. It’s great weather out here. The girls haven’t been to the beach yet, have they? Won’t that be fun?” Yup, this was definitely my mom – born to be a grandmother. I laughed.

“No, I don’t think they’ve been to the beach yet. And we can’t wait to see you either. How is everyone?” My mom answered more questions than I could have asked in the course of the next 30 minutes. I gathered it had been a while since I’d called her just to chat, so she proceeded to update me on the goings on of each of my siblings. My older sisters and brother were all married and doing well with their respective families, and apparently spread out across the U.S. My younger twin brothers were doing a semester abroad in Jerusalem. My youngest brother was serving a mission in Japan and was I getting his weekly emails? And my youngest sister was finishing up her senior year of high school and trying to decide where to go for college. Apparently I didn’t have any surprise siblings.

“Where’s Tiff thinking of going to school?” I hoped I’d get some idea as to where my family was living at the moment.

“I’m hoping she’ll stay close to home; maybe UCLA or even the community college. But she says she wants to go to Harvard right out of the shoot. While that would be wonderful for her, I don’t know if I’m quite ready to let go of my baby, or let her move so far away.” She sniffled a bit.

So, they were in California. I wondered how they had ended up there. Then I realized my mom hadn’t mentioned my dad. My heart skipped a beat.

“Didn’t Dad go to Harvard?” I asked.

“Yes he did, bless his soul. He scrimped and saved and got in, only to meet me that summer in Atlanta and decide he’d rather get married. That’s why we moved to Texas. Then he joined the Marines to help make ends meet and…” Her voice trailed off. I was afraid to ask.

“Mom, are you okay? What’s wrong?”

“Oh don’t worry honey. I know it’s been a couple years. It was such a rough patch, you and your miscarriage and Dad getting hit by that drunk driver. I still have a hard time talking about him at times. But don’t mind me. I’m doing fine. I just miss him is all.”

My worst suspicions had been confirmed. My father had been killed sometime during the past few years. And from the sound of it, it hadn’t been the military that had done it. Just a drunk driver. Just some random person who didn’t realize the consequences of their actions. Someone who had used their agency in a way that affected so many other lives.

“It’s okay Mom.” My voice cracked a little. “I miss him too.”

She changed the subject and began asking about the twins again, and I answered as best as I could. Then she asked a bit about the Mitchell’s and we decided to call it a night. It was almost completely dark and the evening chill was starting to seep through my jeans. Kaleb stepped out onto the porch.

“The girls are ready for their bedtime ‘snack’.” He smiled as he helped me to my feet and kissed me. I pretty much melted right then and there, and then remembered I had to talk to Kristine before bedtime. Kaleb and I spent the next hour trying to get two unruly one year olds to go to sleep. I never realized how exhausting bedtime could be! It had been rather fun for the first 20 minutes to put on their pajamas and read a couple stories, and even nurse them once more. But they seemed to have too much energy pent up from being in a different place than home. I was glad Kaleb seemed to know the evening routine well. It really did take two to handle the girls. After the twins were finally out for the count, he went upstairs to talk to his dad for a bit, and I met up with Kristine out in her lab.

When I arrived, she was sitting in a chair, her back to me, seemingly staring at the wall. She didn’t even hear me come in.

“Kristine? We have got to talk. “I think we should head back to the present right away. I don’t feel right sleeping with Kaleb. I mean, I know we’re currently married and all, but…” Her soft sniffle made me pause.

“Kristine, is everything okay?”

As she turned around to face me, I noticed the yo-yo in her hands. Or at least, what had once been the yo-yo. It was now in several smashed pieces, the string a hopeless tangle.

“What… what happened?” I asked incredulous.

“I went out to watch Riley on his horse and he wanted me to ride with him too.  Sally bucked me off. The yo-yo fell out of my pocket and Sally, well, I guess she thought it was a snake. As you can see, she trampled it pretty good. Dead snake.” She gave a slight chuckle and looked up at me.

“I’m sure I can recreate what I did. It’s just going to take some time.”

“How much time?” I asked. I didn’t know exactly what the yo-yo had done to get us here, but it seemed to be the key to straightening things out again, before we got ourselves into any real trouble.

Kristine’s reply made me a little lightheaded. “Let’s put it this way: you’d better figure out how you’re going to manage sleeping arrangements with Kaleb. And say hello to your family for me next week.”

Chapter 4

If it had been earlier in the day, I would have faked a fall from the tree house and amnesia. Unfortunately, I would probably be taken to the emergency room or something, interrupting everyone’s night. So what should I do? I was more than a little nervous

As I sat in the tree house with Kristine, who was scribbling away frantically and searching through her computer database (gratefully she still had her old MacBook Air), I started to think about the logistics of this adventure – if an adventure was indeed what it was. How did this work? I mean, say we got back to our mental “present” time, and eventually this future played out for us. Would we be experiencing severe déjà-vu? Or would we forget we’d ever experienced the future once we returned to our former time? And if we did remember this, the next time around, would we be doing the same things we were doing now, but with full memory of the past ten years? If this was really my future, how would our being here now affect the future of this future? Or would our knowing this information change how we lived our lives back up to this point? Wasn’t there some kind of time travel paradox in here somewhere?

My brain was starting to hurt. I had no way of figuring out the answers to my questions; I wasn’t sure I really wanted to. Kristine was completely immersed in her mental world of trying to figure out how to get us out of this mess. So I did what any logical person would have done. I cried.

*****

Sometimes crying helps. Sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes, it just gives you a headache and a stuffy nose. Sometimes, the answer is D) all of the above. Kristine did actually come out of her concentrated mental storm long enough to realize I was in tears, and I’m sure she knew why. She just gave me a hug, said, “I’m sure it’ll all be okay”, and went back to her work. I felt minutely comforted. But a little is better than nothing. Kristine had figured it out once, and she could do it again. And as for all my theoretical principles, I knew there was meaning in this life, and that everything happened for a purpose. I had always believed in God. I knew him as my Heavenly Father, the Perfect Parent who watches over his children and has given us innumerable ways to receive blessings and guidance in mortality. So, although crying didn’t do much besides give me a headache and a stuffy nose, it also gave me time to remember how much I was loved, and that there was a Plan for me. Heavenly Father knew how science worked, and nothing, especially not a couple of meddling teenagers, could thwart that plan. I resigned myself to the probability of being “stranded in time” for an indefinite period, and made my way back to the house. There was some reason for us being here, as we were, right now. I didn’t know how it would all work out, but I determined to keep my eyes open and be open to help from above.

*****

I found Kaleb sitting on the couch in the living room, leafing through what looked like photo albums. Although I still felt very much like a school girl trying to win her beau, logically (if logic could even enter into this situation), I knew I was his wife and my sitting beside him on the couch was perfectly fine, normal and acceptable, if not expected.

I peered over his shoulder to see what he was looking at. “Do you remember this?” He asked, pointing to a photograph of Kristine and I the summer we were baptized. Our birthdays were only a couple weeks apart, and we’d often celebrated together. Officially, Kristine was older than me. But being the amazing friend that she was, she would often postpone her parties or celebrations until a few weeks later so that I could participate too. She’d turned eight at the beginning of June, and my birthday wasn’t until the end of the month. But she had waited that month so that we could be baptized together the weekend of the 4th of July. It was one of those rare occasions when my dad had been on leave, and able to be there. Thinking about it now, I’m pretty sure he arranged things on purpose, because I’m pretty sure he baptized all of my siblings and I.

I really didn’t remember much of what had happened that day. I didn’t even remember the photo being taken. But there it was, both of us in white dresses, flowers in our still wet hair. It almost seemed that there was a glow about us, a radiance not quite visible in the picture, but emanating from somewhere else. I smiled at Kaleb.

“No, not really,” was my answer to his question. “I know it happened, but I can’t remember it. The only thing I do remember is…” I trailed off, not sure if I could share. Once the words were out of my mouth, the fact that he was the only thing I actually remembered about such a special day kind of overloaded my heart.

“I remember. I thought I was so old and mature, since I was going to be 12 by the end of the year. I told you that you were all clean and that you’d better be careful not to get dirty again. I don’t know why I felt it necessary to tell you and not Kristine, but I felt sort of protective of you, even then, in a way different from my sister.” He took a hold of my hand.

“That’s the one thing I remember. I remember you standing in front of me telling me not to get dirty again. It stuck with me. To this day I always try to avoid mud puddles.”

As it dawned that I had just made a joke, he laughed out loud, his blue eyes crinkling at the corners. “Humph. And I thought I was partially responsible for the amazing woman you’ve turned into. I guess not.” He winked and leaned in to kiss me.

What am I doing? The seemingly logical side of my brain seemed to scream. But another, deeper part of me, made this feel like exactly the right place to be. I kissed him back and for a moment, I really was who I was supposed to be. It was almost like I felt an echo of the twenty-six year old me, the one who would experience this moment for all it was meant to be, break through the laws of time. It was just a blink, like breathing out and it was gone. But for the first time in many hours, I felt calm and peaceful. I felt like everything really would be okay, no matter what happened.

It was late, as Kaleb and I wandered into his old room. The girls were asleep, snuggled together, in their crib. We had spent another hour or so just talking about our childhood times together. It was fascinating to see the same events through someone else’s eyes. His perspectives seemed to turn black and white memories into Technicolor productions. We curled up together in the bed, his hard, warm chest against my back, our arms intertwined. Within moments, we were asleep.

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