I still remember intentionally flinging the chocolate pudding on my sister’s door, hot with anger and happy, maniacal thoughts of payback laced with justifiable action.
It was a dark sort of feeling. In my logic-deprived teenage mind, it was warranted. I quickly flew through the thick Rolodex file in my mind of all the faults and errors my sister had made, the most recent of which was a petty comment delivered in a catty tone. Pudding, I thought, was the least of what my actions could be.
A pudding splattered door was the least of the least of things I could do to express my hurt, anger.
I remember a snapshot of the smeared door and me, flicking my hair back, walking away dignified, like I was some sort of gift of a teenage girl that behaved nicely. (The Cliff Notes version: I was not. I was mostly surly and mercurial.)
And then my mom walked in from her errands.
Mostly, there was steam coming out of her ears and almost expletives on the tip of her tongue. A pudding fight? Between my two almost-adult girls? My mom’s a saint in real life, but I imagine that she had a big WTH in a cloud above her head at that moment. (For the record: I still apologize to her about this, amongst a potpourri of other small and big hurts I’ve caused throughout my life.)
My sister and I froze in fear. We had never seen our cool-as-a-cucumber mom this upset. And we knew it was our behaviour that was the real problem, even more so than the pudding.
Two things were obvious at that moment: 1. We were in deep trouble and deserved whatever came our way. (We were amazingly quick to come to our senses when confronted with discipline.) And 2: we were going to have to “work together” (another of mom’s rules which we both hated and rallied against, most days as a team,) to clean it up. It was going to be a long day.
The net-net? It was a long, painful day.
But, eventually, with a lot of false starts and stops, we figured out how to work as team. Eventually.
I don’t recall much about that specific part, but I’m guessing we figured out how to be a team with a good deal of prodding/threatening of punishments. I do remember being stubborn as all get out, thinking I was above “cleaning up” and “working together.” Or having to cooperate with my, ugh, sister. (Remember? Mercurial and surly. Also, overly emotional. My mom probably still covets a prayer if you send one up now. )
Essentially, we had to start over with re-learning how to treat each other nicely, respectfully.
Which was a rusty, painful and awkward process. I especially had to try hard to not communicate in a divisive catty undercurrent, which was of course my mother language. It seemed that we had to be exceedingly (read: normal levels of kindness and respect) tender with each other.
It was almost too much for the both of us to bear.
I remember wanting to take a shower and wanting to just drive, drive, drive, where I didn’t have to be kind to anyone. But, as much as we were divided in the pudding throwing and who started it, we were somehow united againist further consequences of our own actions, so we kept trying anyhow. Another speed bump: How to share cleaning supplies with the other sister while trying not to set her off. Easier said than done. Teenage girls are lovely, but also are something fierce. And my sister and I were no content, sunning housecats – we were bobcats with claws.
So…you may be wondering – is there a point to this story? Of course. Is there some hidden (read: obvious) theme here? If you haven’t grasped it yet (the day before a monumental election in the states) I’ll be happy to explain it.
Sharing this story, now, so that we remember that tomorrow, and the weeks that follow – whatever the decision is, we are the ones that get to clean up the pudding together.
All of us, together.
We get to work together, as we’ll still be neighbors and friends and in community with each other, regardless of who wins.
And whoever wins, while it’s something important, it’s more imperative that we figure out how to get along with our kids’ teachers, the neigbor with the wrong candidate’s sign, the mail carrier and the grocery clerk who’s latest offense is not sacking your groceries correctly, amongst a myraid of other sins.
In essense, whatever happens tomorrow, we get to carry on the hard work that is working together and trying hard not set each other off, (re)building the deep love and respect we have for this nation, and most importantly for each other, no matter how we voted.
We get to decide how we’re going to proceed and behave after we’ve finished the long, long pudding war with the “other” side.
And to me, that’s the most hopeful thing that we can do.