Eat Your Checkers

Life is largely comprised of laugh or cry moments. Most of us, unfortunately, choose to cry more than laugh. My family makes a point of laughing, and over the years we have accumulated a library of movie one liners that we throw out routinely to elicit mirth in practically any situation. My mom and sister even do it. Someone giving you obvious, common sense advice or telling you something you already know? The response is, “You’re right, you’re right. I know you’re right,” from When Harry met Sally. Whenever the government does something utterly stupid, my comment is always, “That don’t make no kind of sense!” Someone disagree with something you said or did? “It’s a fool who looks for logic in the chambers of the human heart.” Both are from O Brother Where Art Thou. I find that particular movie, along with Smokey and the Bandit, Tombstone, and Heartbreak Ridge, offer a veritable cornucopia of witticisms that I fling out on the fly to Jay all the time, especially when we’re on the verge of a fight. We inevitably laugh, our anger dissolves, and we’re able to discuss the issue with civility.

By far the movie line I’ve used most over the years is from Overboard. “It’s a helluva day at sea, sir!” That’s when it’s been an especially rough day, and everything that could go wrong, did. Granted, you have to be over a certain age and something of a movie buff to have any chance of getting most of our repertoire, and I do tend to get the blank stare from, well, almost everyone, if I ever use them outside of my immediate family. I once had a very dear friend tell me she wanted to name her baby, Claire. Before I even thought, I said, “Claire? That’s a fat girl’s name,” from The Breakfast Club. She didn’t get the reference, or at least didn’t appreciate it, and I immediately had to stumblingly apologize and explain that I wasn’t actually directing that at her or her child. It just popped in my head. Thankfully, she’s known me for about 30 years and understands how my mind works. All was forgiven, eventually.

We recently experienced a skew in the time/space continuum when Jay broke his foot. Not a “wear a cast for a few weeks” kind of break, but the “needs surgery, followed by a cast, then weeks of physical therapy” kind a break. It was his right foot, too; so, he couldn’t drive. I had to chauffeur him to and from work in addition to running the kids to school and their extracurriculars, which I was happy to do. Yes, it was inconvenient, but he’s my husband, and I love him. He would do it for me. His boss said that he could come and go on my schedule, which was an immense help. My sister happened to already have a visit in the works, and her humor and willingness to jump right in to assist was a huge blessing.

One night before bed, Jay, my sister, and I were sitting on the couch. As Jay and I discussed the next day’s schedule of events, I think my sister could tell that I was starting to get overwhelmed and frustrated at the extensive amount of time I would have to spend in the car. I looked over at her, intending to apologize, again, for turning her vacation into a mission of mercy when she suddenly said, “Eat your checkers.” I just blinked at her for a second. Then I started to laugh, and before I knew it, I was doubled over laughing so hard my stomach hurt and streams of mascara tinted tears were running down my face, which, of course, set her off. We both howled with laughter while Jay just looked at us and kept saying, “What’s so funny? I don’t get it. What’s so funny?” My sis pulled up the scene, also from Overboard, on Youtube. Joanna Staton, played by Goldie Hawn, is a rich socialite stricken with amnesia after falling overboard off her yacht. She ends up in a small community hospital where her behavior is so abominable that her doctor gets fed up and sticks her in the psych ward. One of the other patients eats checkers like cookies and stares at her while enjoying his meals. In a fit of annoyance, Joanna grabs a handful of the game pieces, flings them at the checker eater, and says, “Stop staring at me! Eat your checkers!”

It wasn’t a line I’d ever used, but over the course of the next week as I tried to adjust to our new routine, I repeated it to myself whenever time got so tight I met myself coming and going, and instead of crying, I found myself laughing. We all have to “eat our checkers” from time to time, some more than others. The key is to find a way to swallow them without choking