I can't remember exactly how it came up, but a week or so ago at work, we were talking about parental tantrums--our own and those of our parents--particularly chore-related tantrums, the kind in response to a chore poorly done or not done at all. The subject reminded me of the time when Little Sister and I were thirteen and fourteen (or twelve and thirteen, either way a scary age combination) and we were sent to clean our room and instead ended up bickering because that's pretty much all we did for about seven years straight.
This particular day, unable to take any more of our constant arguing, my mother came storming up the stairs (two flights, our room was in the attic) and into our room where she began emptying every drawer into a pile on the floor. She dumped the desk and the dresser drawers, ranting the whole time. She tossed everything loose from every flat surface on to the growing pile. She added the loose clothes from the floor. She pulled the sheets and blankets off the double bed my sister and I shared and finally, with considerable effort, grabbed the mattress itself and flung it on top the pile.
When she was finished, she turned to us and said, "You're not coming out of this room until this is all taken care of!" and then turned to make her triumphant exit only to discover that the pile she had so painstakingly built was completely blocking the door.
She clambered awkwardly to the top and wedged herself between the mattress and the door. Then, with a kind of bump-shove she shifted the whole pile just enough that the door opened a crack and she squeezed out.
My mother did succeed in at least one way that afternoon: The hysterical laughter Little Sister and I shared that day was the occasion for at least a temporary cease-fire between us.
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