Amanda’s Autobiography

By Duke Ryan

Amanda’s Autobiography is an account of a girl’s first decade told in her words with some help from her grandfather, whom she calls “Poppy.” He played what she says was “an important supporting role” in her boisterous early years, largely because he was “sort of defective as an adult,” which suited her perfectly.

Note from the author:

I want to be clear that this is a work of fiction. Amanda is a creature of my imagination, and the situations she finds herself in are fictional. Like much fiction it is inspired in many places by actual persons and the events of real life. In other words, reality and fantasy overlap at the margins, but this is not history, biography, or autobiography in any real sense. My relations with my granddaughter, Katie, however, certainly got me thinking along some of the lines I have pursued in this book. Enjoy.

Duke Ryan


I figured out very quickly that walking was a lot better than crawling. You can do so much more stuff. But if crawling is tricky, walking is like going to the moon. One thing helps though—adults are crazy to have you walk. They brag about it: “She started walking when she was only four months old; right then we knew she was headed for Harvard.”

Here’s how it went with me. Daddy said, “Hey, Muffin, want to try walking,” or so I am told, and took hold of both my arms. I hung off his hands while he went slowly forward, and my feet did some fumbly little dance on the floor. He made encouraging noises, I could tell from the sound, but then he forgot and used one hand to reach for something. I spun around and hung from the other hand like a toy bear trying to samba. I yelled!

“Sorry, Muffin,” he says he said, and then I heard Mommy shout what was probably some useful advice to him. After that he was more careful.

Next stage, short solos: trying to get from the sofa to the coffee table, parents saying encouraging things in cooey voices. I hang on to the sofa—

Ready? No, not yet—more encouragement from parents—“steady,” I say to myself, even though I don’t know the word yet—“ready—NOW!” And off I go—wobble, stumble, fumble—doing great—steady now, almost there—whoopee—oh lord, CRASH! Bleeping rug in my face again! Nobody knew that ratty rug like I did, every stitch of it. I yell! Mother sweeps me up, says cooey things and plops me in a funny chair with great long legs and a little deck right in front of me that keeps me in. Mommy puts all sorts of things on the deck—a fuzzy blue rabbit, a sippy-cup I can drink from without spilling unless I try really hard, a thing that rattles, and some other stuff that varies from day to day. She also pops a zuzu in my mouth. That’s what my dad calls a pacifier because that’s what his parents called the one they popped in his mouth when they were in the Foreign Service somewhere on the far side of the Moon, where he was born. Zuzus have double benefits: they calm and comfort kids, and they eliminate all the howling that otherwise would drive parents crazy. Grandma says whoever invented them should have gotten a Nobel Prize.

The little deck on my chair is neat because I can throw things off of it. Maybe that doesn’t sound like a lot of fun, but when you are one-year old you take your kicks wherever you can get them—there aren’t many opportunities. In fact, adults don’t realize how bored kids are most of the time, especially singletons, like me. So, here you go bunny; whee, up in the air and splat on the rug. I hope that didn’t hurt. Bunny knows the rug as well as I do. Sippy-cup next? Well, maybe not. The top can come off, and chocolate milk can spill on the rug, and Mommy gets very noisy when that happens. She does a finger-wagging thing and her face looks like somebody squeezed it really hard with both hands. In fact, if she has to pick up too much stuff, she gets really un-cooey, and I end up in the little bed with the fence around it.

But back to walking! My little solos continued, and I got better at them. The routine stayed the same for quite a while: let go of the sofa and head for the table. OK, here we go—right foot out first, that’s good, now left foot, very good, now right foot again,—oh, oh, wait, right one tangled up with the left—get it loose,—oh, no—CRASH!—face in that bleeping rug again. Oh, well, better than the last time when my left leg decided to go off somewhere toward the bathroom, and I spun around and hit the table edge. It hurt very big time, and I howled like a fire engine. Mommy grabbed me and held me and said really cooey things, and Dad patted me, and it all was very nice. If my head didn’t hurt so much I would like to do the after-crash part a lot more.

Anyway, that’s the way it is; that’s learning to walk. Eventually I figured out how to do it, and I explored all sorts of neat things—table legs, electrical outlets, piles of dirty socks, and pizza bits dropped on the sofa. (Housekeeping never had top priority in our home.) Furthermore, now my parents could say things like, “She’s only ten months old, and she walks like a trooper. Be climbing mountains next year.”


- Duke Ryan