Friday, June 11, 2010
My sister and I shared a room most of our teen years. We had a Cold War kind of relationship. Each day we danced through a series of minor concessions and major conflicts, poorly hiding them under a seemingly placid surface of standoff. Our mutually agreed upon peace went unspoken; for myriad reasons, it was essential we endure our hellish prison of room-sharing to keep our parents happy. We erected quite literally a wall in the center of our room by placing our dressers back to back, clearly demarcating HERS and MINE. Even the one closet was separated permanently; those foolish enough to try to alter this arrangement did so at their own risk. This was serious.
I was reminded of one of our most memorable arguments today. In our early teens, I used a yellow highlighter to stain the perfectly white teeth of Tom Selleck in all his Magnum P.I. glory. I hit her where it hurt, right in her favorite poster. She walked into the room as I walked out, a smug, self-righteous smile flickering on my young face. I was a few steps down the hall before I heard the gasping and stammering.
Retaliation was in order. Moments later, our room took on an eerie silence, her mental wheels locked in overdrive searching for the perfect revenge. She found it. She emptied the entire contents of my beautiful bottle of Bonne Belle perfume onto my bed, soaking the quilt, sheet and mattress. Now I liked the smell of that pink liquid when it was dabbed on my wrists. In full potency that stuff could down an elephant.
Happily the Cold War is over for my sister and me. Somewhere along my freshman year of college the thaw began and now we talk nearly every day. She's one of my best friends. I am thankful for our tenuous beginnings and our fierce love.
To the point: my daughters' own little mini Cold War reminded me of that today. We decided to take an after dinner boat ride. Elder brings two towels, both for herself. Younger decides she wants a towel as soon as we leave the dock. Elder doesn't want to share because if she wanted one she should have thought to bring one. Younger makes frustrated noises. This mildly annoying bickering goes on until it's about to come to blows. We stop the boat, separated the perpetrators, talk to each one; if you are a parent, you know the drill.
Eventually the two reunite in the bow of the boat, each one sprawled on one of the two towels. Their heads bowed close to each other, they laugh and sing and tease and tell jokes. I can see their faces in profile as their words tumble over each others. I shake my head and wonder why we couldn't have skipped that little drama. But I also smile.
I have hope for my girls that they will enjoy what I share with my own sister. Not because it's a given, because it so isn't. I have this hope because they have fierce love, fierce hearts and fierce thoughts. I know they'll fight again, probably before I finish writing this. And I know it will be loud and hard and it will hurt to grow up.
I also know that they are secure, strong and content with who they are as people, these two oil and vinegar girls. For now I will happily take the short clips of beautiful peace and wait in hope to see how they grow together and apart over the next years.