Today I ran afoul of that strange and arcane system siblings use to make certain things are “fair.” Around our house there are weekly chores that are usually done on the weekend: cleaning bathrooms, vacuuming, etc. This being a long (holiday) weekend, we played all day Saturday and Sunday, which means we left the weekly chores until today. We actually played most of today, too, until a late afternoon trip to the grocery store heralded the end of holiday time and our return to the ordinary time of our daily lives.
After putting away the groceries, I reminded the children of their chores and went to put out the garbage and recycling for tomorrow’s collection. Resolved to get several large, empty cardboard boxes into the recycling bin, I was hacking away at them with my matte knife when my son came out and announced that he needed me to come because the vacuum cleaner wasn’t working.
“Can it wait for a few minutes?” I asked, slashing with gusto. The answer was no; he had to do his vacuuming right now.
“Can you do something else for — oh, I don’t know — ten minutes?” I tried again more pointedly. Couldn’t he see that it was unwise to exasperate someone armed with such a dangerous implement?
“I can’t think of anything,” he replied. I rolled my eyes, then was struck with inspiration.
“I know,” I said brightly, “you can bring out the bag of recycling from the kitchen.” He shook his head.
“I took out the garbage this morning,” he explained, adding that his sister would therefore have to take out the recycling. Irritated, I nearly launched into a lethal rant about how it didn’t matter who did what and he should do it just because it needed to be done. I caught myself, however, remembering that such things are matters of extreme gravity among siblings.
“Fine,” I said. “Send her out.” A few minutes later my daughter came out with the bag of kitchen recycling. She cheerfully dumped it into the bin and hopped on her skateboard.
“Whoa there,” I caught her at the top of the driveway. “Are you finished with your chores?”
“Everything but vacuuming,” was the glib reply.
“Finish your chores first, then you can play until supper,” I admonished. She explained that she couldn’t because it was her brother’s turn to vacuum first. Never mind that we have two vacuum cleaners (one of them an ancient but very functional heirloom Electrolux); it simply wasn’t her turn.
“You better have everything done before supper,” I said darkly.
“I will!” she replied as she sailed down the driveway and banked onto the sidewalk. I put the recycling bin on the curb, then went to rescue my son so the wheels of domestic industry could start turning once again. (Turned out the vacuum wasn’t plugged in.)