Mischief, bickering and (at times) mild disobedience. Often these marked the summer days spent with my four siblings. Since my mom worked full time, all five of us–ranging in ages from 7 to 16–were home alone during the day. And TROUBLE was ever at our fingertips.
My mom was determined, though, to keep her children in check. One of the ways she attempted to do so was by assigning us housework duties written on HUGE and INCREDIBLY DETAILED lists that sometimes spanned the front and back of a piece of paper. Ironically, it was sometimes DURING those chores that chaos ensued.
Case in point: The splinted broom. I would blame my middle brother, but we were really all involved to some extent–even 7-year-old, innocent-faced me. (Side note: Wasn’t I just ADORABLY gangly?)
It all started one lovely summer morning. The five of us were stuffed into the kitchen doing our CLEANUP chore. My brother, Keith, was sweeping the floor. Keith was the most, let’s say, RAMBUNCTIOUS among us. At least, it seems that way in my memories. I mean, he once dropped an egg on the floor just because my sister didn’t think he would do it; for the record, I said adamantly that he WOULD. In his early teens at this point, Keith was at the center of a PLETHORA of interesting moments.
And there Heidi was, diligently washing the table as Keith swept. Suddenly, Keith, with an all-too-familiar gleam in his eyes, redirected the broom from the floor and hovered it over the table. He started shaking the broom, sniggering hysterically. Inevitably, the dirt began to fall and stick to the newly-washed table.
And that’s when the shrieking began. Heidi yelped, quite shrilly if memory serves correctly, at my oldest brother (Anthony, aka “THE ENFORCER”). “Anthony, Keith’s shaking dirt ALL over the table!” Anthony whipped his head around and barked at his younger brother: “Keith, stop that right now!”
Needless to say that didn’t quite work out. Enter ESCALATION.
Keith’s eyes flashed, and a fight ensued that ended with the THE ENFORCER chasing Keith down. Me, Heidi and Eric (aka “THE PEACEMAKER”) stood by in horror–while also rooting for Anthony, of course–as he pinned Keith firmly to the sofa with the broom held taut between them. Eric screeched, “Guys, STOP, you’re going to break something!”
And then a giant SNAP reverberated through the room. Just like that, the broom my mom had bought MERE DAYS AGO was in two pieces.
Silence reigned as the five of us stood imagining the wrath of our mom when she discovered this. Thankfully, Eric’s “rationality” pierced through our terror.
“I can fix this!” he told the panic-stricken four of us. He scampered to the garage and returned carrying a sticklike piece of wood and a roll of masking tape. With an odd amount of precision and intentness, he attached the “splint” to the broom and secured it using about half a roll of the tape.
“There, good as new!” Eric “THE PEACEMAKER” proclaimed with pride.
The four of us looked at the contraption with skepticism. I mean, it looked rather odd to have a splint and masking tape on what was a brand-new broom. But what else could we do? Owning our mistake was, of course, UNTHINKABLE. Now all we had to do was wait those long hours that felt like YEARS until mom returned home. Would we be able to fool the ALL-KNOWING MOTHER?
My mom had barely walked through the door when we hear that telltale yell of fury.
“Kids! Get out here right now!” Mom BELLOWED (she was a great bellower in those days).
We quickly obeyed, sidling up to our mom; our expressions were BRIMMING with innocence. And yet she didn’t seem to be quite buying those big-eyed looks.
“What HAPPENED to the broom?” she questioned with her well-known and fierce “don’t-you-lie-to-me” look.
Whether it was all five of us in unison, one at a time or a spokesperson, the response came nearly before the question left my mom’s mouth: “What are you talking about? It always looked like that.” Nods of affirmation from all five of us gave affirmation to the “fact.”
My mom looked hard at each one of us. Then, sighing deeply and rolling her eyes, she walked away.
Sighs of relief burst from our throats as she left the room. We were SAFE! We had done the UNTHINKABLE. We had fooled the ALL-KNOWING MOTHER.
Fast-forward years later to a family gathering. All grown-up (or nearly grown-up), her five children chuckled and reminisced to my mom about that time we had TOTALLY and COMPLETELY fooled her as we unfolded the TRUE story of the splinted broom.
Not missing a beat, our mom expertly burst our bubble. Once more, she rolled her eyes, sighed and looked at each of us. “Of course I KNEW that’s what had happened. I hadn’t BOUGHT the broom like that. But I was tired, and I didn’t feel like fighting that battle. I’m not STUPID.” All along, we had been UTTERLY CONVINCED we had won. But of course, the ALL-KNOWING MOTHER was UN-FOOLABLE.
UN-FOOLABLE, yes, but thrifty. The broom was used in our home for years to come. It retired about a decade later during a move, splint and masking tape still intact.
Disclaimer: The writer (ME) is aware that facts may have slightly shifted, exaggerations may have occurred and quotes are likely not verbatim. But memories are faulty, so give me a break. Cover photo is one of the siblings and myself years later (but it’s my favorite!) and the photo in the post is from when I was 8 (I had the same innocent face at age 7. I swear).