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When my family lived in the United Kingdom, my father worked in one of the DODDS London offices as a PPS Coordinator. That meant that he had to travel a lot and consult with schools across Europe. That also meant lots of conferences. Simply put, he wasn’t home much, leaving my mother to often fill his parental role too. I was about seven at the time, my brother, 10 or 11. My sister, however, was full into her awkward, hormone crazed hell of her teenage years. To say that she had problems, is a little true and unfair. Most people have some sort of issue when they’re teenagers, but my sister’s life is a little more complicated then that. At the moment, I’d rather just leave most of her life’s story there.

At any rate, when you grow up with two other siblings, certain things become battlegrounds within the home. The most contentious, however, seemed to be the television. My brother and I always wanted to watch cartoons, and my sister always wanted to watch tabloid television. Top of the Pops — a weekly countdown of what’s on the pop music charts — was one of her favorites. Even more, we had just gotten a VCR, and often, my sister wanted to not only watch it, but record it, so she could watch it again right afterwards. Sometimes, that wasn’t enough. She’d not only repeat her viewing, but do it several times, locking up the only television in the house. As one can imagine, this had the potential, every week, to turn into a huge yelling match.

One week, it got more vicious than others. My mom, this time, instead of just intervening, walked into the living room with one hand behind her back. “Give me the tape,” she said to my sister.

My sister complied. She popped the tape out of the VCR and handed it over.

My mom set the tape on a nearby table. She had been hiding a hammer behind her back. And she swung, hard, many times, until the tape was just a shattered bit of plastic. Then, she opened the back sliding glass door, and flung out on the flagstone terrace next to our back yard. “That is all,” my mom said, She stomped out of the room, leaving my sister mortified, speechless.


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