In honor of National Siblings Day, I thought I would share this story from our family archives…
When we were growing up, my best friend Sarah and I, along with our two older-by-four-years sisters, Maegan and Jane, would share play dates at each others’ houses. The “Big Girls“, as they were called, being very clever, wily, and often bored, would constantly find new and creative ways to torment us (the “Little Girls”), especially during sleepovers. This could be anything from hiding our beloved Barbies to taking the pillows out of our pillowcases and replacing them with wads of crumpled newspaper to putting my little brother CJ’s 4-foot rubber snake in the bed.
We had somehow convinced both sets of our parents that we should have a mega sleepover weekend, with all four girls staying at Sarah and Jane’s house on Friday, then our house on Saturday, followed by Maegan and Jane leaving from there to attend a party together on Sunday.
I don’t know exactly what age we were (that’s not the important part of the story), but Sarah and I were now old and experienced enough where we knew that the Big Girls would likely try some kind of prank, and we wanted to be ready. Sarah came up with the excellent idea that we could have some spray bottles at the ready beside us in bed on Friday night, and when our sisters snuck into the room to do whatever it was they planned to do to mess with us, we would give them what for. So we found and filled some spray bottles and hunkered down in the twin beds in Sarah’s room, ammunition ready. Unfortunately, I had not yet hit the “night owl” rhythm I enjoy as an adult today, and, try as I might to stay awake and vigilant, I fell fast asleep. The next thing I knew, I awoke to Sarah yelling my name as I saw the quickly retreating figures of our sisters fleeing through her bedroom door. Outnumbered two-to-one in the fight, Sarah had managed to get off only a couple of ill-aimed sprays from her bottle, and the interlopers escaped with hardly a drop on them.
She had, however, managed to disrupt their ultimate plan that night, which was to sneak into the room, put crazy makeup all over us as we slept, and sneak back out again. We had never successfully foiled one of their plans before, so we considered it a win and celebrated our (Sarah’s) work accordingly.
The next day wrapped up our visit at their house and then the weekend festivities transferred over to our house for Saturday night. There was dinner of some sort, and possibly a movie or game or something, none of which I can recall; it’s not the important part of the story.
What I do recall is waking up the next morning, still groggy and bleary, but with a growing awareness that something did not feel quite right. There was an odd sensation on the skin of one of my temples. Sarah felt me stirring and woke up as well, and as we turned toward each other, we saw them.
Head to toe, we were covered in them. Our faces, arms, legs… the Big Girls had been thorough. (And, as neither of us had felt a thing as we slept, apparently much more sneaky than they had been the night before.)
You see, being the elder siblings, they simply could not let their thwarted attempt of Friday night stand on the record as it was. They were the Big Girls. They had a reputation to uphold. And so, with renewed energy and resources, they formulated a new plan for Saturday night and executed it flawlessly. They had even gone and put a few stickers on CJ, just to preempt any revolutionary ideas he might get on his own.
We sighed, bested once again, and began to use our short, meager fingernails to try and peel up the edges of the stickers. It was then that we realized… they weren’t budging. We pulled a little harder. Nothing. Then Sarah tried the “super-quick-rip-off-the-bandaid” approach with her sticker and yelped as a patch of hair and a layer of skin came off with it.
Now, I must pause here and say that, even though they were obnoxious teenagers at the time constantly bent on putting us in our place, Maegan and Jane would never have knowingly put anything on (or even near) us that they knew would hurt us. Their goal was to prank us in such a way that we wouldn’t soon forget it, but nothing that would leave a scar. And we knew that at the time as well.
That knowledge, however, did not make us pause for an instant in our quest for adult sympathy. We went to my mother, showed her Sarah’s wound and the rest of our bodies covered with the leech-like decorations (producing CJ as Exhibit B), and tried not to reveal how much we were reveling in her displeasure at the state of things. It suddenly dawned on us that this was quite a unique situation. Usually, in Kid World, when things get to the point where damage is done to a person or property, it happens out of eye or earshot of the adult(s) on duty and they’re suddenly faced with a “whodunnit” of conflicting testimonies coming from each side, usually given at increasingly high decibel levels. The confusion and stress of the moment prompts a lot of grownups to order the kids to apologize to each other (regardless of who was at fault) and separate, then they patch up whatever (or whoever) was damaged and go on with their day, sometimes questioning the life choices which led them to these predicaments.
But this scenario could not have been more clear. Obviously Sarah and I had not done this to each other. CJ, while he would eventually grow into a master prankster himself, was still at his sweet and gullible stage of life. That left the Big Girls.
I don’t recall how we spent that morning or what my mom did to get those stickers off without removing vast amounts of hair and skin. Maybe a soak in the tub? Rubbing alcohol? Vaseline? I don’t remember, but that’s not the important part of the story.
Somehow, we were relieved of the stickers. And in the interim, we had pleaded the case to my mother that, as it was clear that there had been no provocation, no “they-said-we-said” conflicting reports of circumstances, and significant physical harm done to us, that the only just thing to do would be to give a one-time endorsement to let us mete out our sisters’ punishment.
And… astoundingly… she agreed.
It. Was. On.
We spent the next few hours gleefully planning for our sanctioned act of revenge. For some reason or another, in the house at the time we had several bags of “water grenades” (dark green water balloons imprinted with lines like grenades and made of especially thin rubber to create a quick pop). These really weren’t great for “regular” water balloon play where you want at least some element of surprise over whether the balloon is going to bounce or pop when it hits your opponent or the ground. For this, though, they were perfect— we didn’t want mystery. We wanted carnage.
We gorged ourselves on the thrill of filling the water grenades, discussing strategy, and all the rest. And then, before we knew it, it was time. It was decided that CJ, having been among the injured parties, would also be allowed to participate, so the three of us took our places outside beside the large stash of waiting water grenades, our hearts beating wildly with excitement and adrenaline. It was a beautiful spring day. Fruit trees were flowering under the bright blue sky and the breeze blew softly, carrying the scent of some freshly cut grass from a neighbor’s yard.
We snapped to attention as we heard the front door open. The Big Girls started to make their way into the front yard as they headed out in carefully curated outfits for their party, full of exuberance and with a carefree bounce in their step. We each carefully picked up two water grenades, feeling the delightful weight of them press into our palms, and crept out of our hiding place.
There are many memories from my childhood that are hazy at best. But one that has remained crystal clear, and I pray always will, is the way Jane’s hair looked in that moment. It was beautiful— dark and silky, shining in the afternoon sun like fresh blackberries.
My water grenade exploded squarely on the back of her head, and chaos ensued. The Big Girls, (literally) not knowing what had hit them, had a moment of shock which was quickly overruled by their instinct to run as we continued to hurl water grenades at them from every direction. We were small, quick, and determined. And they were unarmed.
The sounds of screams and squeals and satisfying splats filled the air as our weapons hit even the smallest portion of their targets, and there was a flurry of arms and legs as we all crisscrossed the yard in a barrage of water and bits of green rubber.
At one point, one of the Big Girls took off her shoes and hid them in a corner somewhere for safekeeping, but CJ found and attacked them with all the energy and gusto his little frame could muster.
Eventually Maegan and Jane made their way through the line of fire back up to the front door, congratulating themselves on their escape from the melee.
The door was locked.
Like a horde of hungry zombies, we approached them from the rear, their shrieks and bangs on the door growing ever more frantic. Just then, our mother appeared at the door’s window, and, with a twinkle in her eye, waved gleefully at them. I love my mother. They turned to face the pummeling force of water and righteous rage from their younger siblings, as years of pent up frustrations rained down on them in a tidal wave of glorious explosive retribution.
Later, after everything had died down and we had withdrawn to revel in our sublime victory, the icing on that most delicious of metaphorical cakes was that Maegan and Jane had no time (or maybe no option?) to change clothes and ended up going to the party as they were.
It was truly a perfect storm of circumstance that led to our triumph that day. If just one thing had been different… if Sarah had fallen asleep on Friday night, if either of us had woken up on Saturday night, if the stickers hadn’t been quite so sticky, if the water grenades hadn’t already been in the house, if our mother hadn’t had been on board with our devious plan… it would never have happened. But it did, and because it did, the Big Girls never played another sleepover prank on us again.
And that, my friends, is the important part of the story.