Sunday, May 27, 2007

Field agent Meelyn

My husband is addicted to a strange little snack called Andy Capp's Hot Fries. I don't know where he gets this weird taste in snacks, but for quite some time, he would only eat a certain kind of potato chip that you could buy in Cincinnati. Once when my friend Cato came to spend the weekend with us, she brought a huge box of these chips with her and he hugged the box like my nephew hugged the two-foot tall King Kong action figure he got one year for Christmas. Same facial expression and everything.

So the Hot Fries are one of his passions and he eats them in the evenings while watching television and drinking a cold beer. He feels that Andy Capp's Hot Fries are just a little bit special and doesn't willingly share them with me and the girls. My feeling is that any snack in our kitchen that isn't in a safe in fair game. So occasionally, his Hot Fries get eaten and great is his sorrow when he finds that we have once again betrayed him.

He has taken to hiding them.

The hiding places my husband has found are very unique. Once he put them in the pocket of his winter coat. Or sometimes on top of the refrigerator in a pretty willow basket I have there. The other day, he put them in the cabinet that's over the stove because that's where we keep the cereal and pasta and he'd noticed that the only cereal left up there was Quaker Rice Chex and he knew that none of us would eat it, so his Hot Fries would be safe.

He reckoned without Meelyn.

I'm not sure what prompted Meelyn to open that cupboard, especially since she knew that I hadn't been to the store. Unless she thought that the Grocery Fairies had made a stop at our house to magically replace the Raisin Bran and the Honey Bunches of Oats and the granola. But anyway, she opened that cabinet door and found the Andy Capp's Hot Fries and decided to hide them from her father.

Meelyn didn't tell me she was going to do this. She just found an unlikely place and put the bag there and late on Thursday afternoon when the three of us got home from running errands, my husband met us at the back door, greeting us somewhat unconventionally by saying, "Who ate my Hot Fries?"

Aisling and I looked at each other and said, "Did you?...No." Meelyn was suspiciously quiet, with a little smile playing about her lips. We all filed into the kitchen where my husband was standing beside the wastebasket. "I dug through that trash," he said, pointing indignantly, "because I figured you all ate them with your lunch. But the bag hasn't been thrown away and that means there must be some left and someone has hidden my Hot Fries!"

He looked accusingly at me and then at Aisling. "I didn't do it," she said, affronted. "I bet she did," and gestured toward me with her head.

"You always say that," my husband commented bitterly.

"Oh, Daddy!" Meelyn giggled, collapsing in laughter onto a kitchen chair. "I hid them from you!" She looked very pleased with herself, blushing faintly.

My husband and I looked at her in disbelief. Meelyn? Meelyn played a practical joke on her dad? That kind of thing is such an Aisling thing to do. Or, to be completely honest, a me thing.

"Gimme some dawg, girl," Aisling said admiringly to Meelyn, holding out her knuckles for Meelyn to bump.

"Where did you hide them?" he asked incredulously.

"Oh, just somewhere," she said airily. "Someplace very, very secret."

"Meelyn, I want my Hot Fries."

She opened her eyes up wide. "But you will spoil your appetite for dinner, Daddy. I'll get them for you later." And before he could catch her, she zoomed up the stairs to change into her volleyball clothes.

About ten minutes later, I was driving her to the church gym where she plays volleyball with some friends from her team one evening a week and she told me where she'd hidden them.

"What made you decide to do that?" I asked curiously.

"Just because I love him. I gave them back before we left," she said fondly. "Don't you think it's cute that he went through the wastebasket?"

"Well, yeah, I do. And Aisling would, definitely. But you've been so impervious to that kind of anti-social behavior. You're so much more mature than I am."

Her forehead wrinkles in worry. "There wasn't anything gross in there, was there?"

"Just some outdated magazines," I assured her.

"Oh, good. I don't like to think of him digging through wet coffee grounds."

We pulled up in front of the gym. She leaned over, smelling of bright, citrusy body splash and kissed me on the cheek. "Thank you for bringing me to volleyball, Mommy. I have my phone. See you at nine." And she got out of the van in a swish of ponytail and fluttered her hand at me, smiling over her shoulder.

I absolutely love having a teenager. What did I manage to do right in this life to get a 14-year-old daughter who is gentle and kind and warmhearted, plus can play a really smart little practical joke?

Pulling out of the church parking lot, I headed back home to Aisling, my husband and his Hot Fries, happily humming "Something Good" from The Sound of Music.

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