Author’s Note: Many of the problems we face as adults are just variations on those we deal with as children. So too are many of the solutions.
“Mom! Chrissy took my game!”
“No I didn’t!”
She paused in her furious attack upon the carrots on her chopping board. The third siren would sound off any second now . . .
“Hey, that’s mine! Give it back!”
It was enough to drive a woman to drink. Whoever had invented summer vacation definitely hadn’t had children.
With a chorus of plaintive, wounded wails and a thundering upon the stairs that was wholly disproportionate to their ten, eight, and seven year old bodies, the girls barreled toward her — mother, cook, chef, maid, and arbiter of all disputes — with the inevitability of a hurricane.
With a sigh she put down her knife, muted the hollow promises of the technical school commercial that danced across the countertop TV and braced herself for the coming storm.
Chrissy made it through the doorway first, but only by a hair. Judy and Isley, who was holding the apparent bone of contention tight against her chest, tumbled in right on her heels.
“Mom,” Chrissy whined between huffing breaths, “I got my game down and was gonna play it and Isley just took it away!”
“No I didn’t,” Isley screeched.
“It’s not even your game,” Judy broke in, “It’s mine!”
It was a scene that had played out countless times and in countless variations already, and the summer was only ten days old. It had actually been cute the first few days. The girls bickering over petty things, the house alive and kicking with the sort of trifling, age-old contentions that made family family — especially when the family had three young girls.
But the cuteness, the quaintness, had faded fast. And now, with only half an hour before her husband was due home, a roast that hadn’t even made it into the oven yet, a hungry cat tangled up around her ankles and Oprah just settling down in her chair to interview Tom Cruise, she was in no mood to counsel her little banshees to a peaceful resolution.
“I’ve had enough of you three!” she shouted, silencing their simultaneous pleas. “You’re ridiculous! You’re sisters — why can’t you act like it? All you do is fight. And over what? A game? Are you kidding me? Games are supposed to be shared. You can’t even play it alone, so who cares whose it is, or who grabbed it first!”
The girls’ faces had fallen at her first shout. It was unusual that they actually drove her to raise her voice, but they knew enough to stop when they did.
“Give me that,” she barked, pointing to the box that Isley still cradled in her arms. “If you can’t learn to share, to get along — if you can’t even sit down together to enjoy the simple pleasure of playing a game — then none of you will play it at all!”
With that she snatched the game away and slid it as calmly as she could onto the top of the refrigerator. Taking a deep breath, she turned back around and glared half-heartedly at the girls. Even the oldest looked as if she might cry at any moment.
“Now go outside and play until your father gets home,” she said.
Then over the clatter of the screen door, “And don’t let me hear you fighting about anything else!”
Pushing the insistently mewing cat out of the way with her foot, she unmuted the TV as she watched the girls disperse onto the jungle gym in the back yard.
“We interrupt our regularly scheduled program for an important breaking news story,” said an uncharacteristically harried-looking newsman behind a large oaken desk. She turned up the TV mainly in response to the apparent look of bewilderment, even fear, on his usually stoic face.
“In an attack of unprecedented scope, violence and coordination today, five nuclear warheads were detonated within five minutes of each other in and around Jerusalem. There is no way to estimate the number of casualties as yet, but early indications from experts are that the attack will render the entire Holy Land, birthplace of the world’s three major western religions, utterly uninhabitable for hundreds, if not thousands, of years . . .”
Looking out the window thoughtfully, she saw her girls laughing now and playing happily on the swings together.
“Well it’s about time.”