by Teresa Cowan

I’ve lost it! My sense of humor, that is. It doesn’t evoke the same sensation as watching your alien reg­istration slip between the train and the platform. Nor does it demand the rubber knees and rush of perspi­ration when you lose your 2-year-old in the store. It rather creeps up on you. Its realization is something akin to discovering that your waistline has yet again expanded. You’re baffled and a little shocked. What caused you to become such a grouch?

Tracing back the events, I suspect my sense of fun went missing about four weeks into home leave. The kids and I were checking into yet another place of residence—my parents’ home. My kids were a bit hyper, off the wall. This prompted my mom inno­cently to remark how much quieter and calmer her own offspring had been. I’m certain this is where my headspace made an about face!

I switched to the old Machiavellian modus operandus. You know the mindset: it’s similar to that of teachers in September. She’s got her class under constant surveillance; they cannot hope to escape con­viction! So ended our last week of vacation in Canada—Stalag 17!

The 13-hour flight back to Japan with the kids alone did little to return me to my normally happy-go-lucky self. However, upon arrival at Narita, I truly felt like laughing, hysterically. But I knew that the simulta­neous desire to laugh and cry is not the definition: “humor, sense of.”

Ask any mother who has recently returned from a lengthy vacation about humor—or even comic relief. There is none!

Along with the mountain of laundry and the unex­plained invasion of carpenter ants, is the re-establish­ment of rules and routines. Just envisage the typical scenario: “Bedtime is 8 o’clock. . .too bad you’re not tired. . .school starts in four days, 10 hours and three minutes.” Or how about this: “I don’t care if your grandfather lets you eat mangos and ice cream for breakfast. ..he’s got no teeth… and I won’t take out a mortgage to fix yours.” Nag, nag, nag, ad nauseam.

In any event, it works and rules and routines are maintained for the most part.

After depositing my 5-year-old and 3-year-old at school, I realized that I was to be alone for the first time in months. I instinctively knew that this was the optimum moment to set out in search for the elusive sense of humor. So, I raced home, settled my derriere down by the pool and cracked open an Asahi Super Dry. And I relished that moment alone for the whole morning.

That night while my husband rubbed Noxema over my sunburn, we laughed about the price one has to pay for a moment’s peace alone. But we realized that everyone needs time alone to decompress, to contem­plate the mounting laundry. Even kids can benefit from some time alone to play quietly. They don’t need to be shuffled off from one preordained, pre-organized activity to another. Saints forbid (I can’t believe I’m writing this one) even husbands need five minutes of peace and quiet to read at the breakfast table!

With these revelations in mind, I plan to give my­self some time alone each day—even if it means five minutes alone with the bathroom door closed.