Tuesday, April 17, 2018

"Uncivil War"

If only you’d met them three summers ago, you’d have said they were peas in a pod --

So similar and so familiar were they, separate sightings had seemed rather odd.
Had you met them in winter two Christmases past, you may not have told them apart
For they wore matching outfits from headbands to socks. (They really had mastered the art.)
Last spring had you passed them on sidewalk or street, you’d have noticed them walking in sync
But by fall something dreadful had broken their bond, and their friendship had come to the brink.

Now Zoey and Sara did nothing by bicker and squabble and quarrel and fight,
And because they were sisters this tension prevailed throughout morning and evening and night.
As soon as the sunshine peeked over the trees, Sara leapt out of bed with a smile
But her joy was soon quenched by a shout from her sibling, of “Go back to sleep for a while!”
And that set them off for the rest of the day, ever getting at each other’s throats,
Grumbling and arguing under their breath, one pouting while the other girl gloats.

At breakfast one morning, Zoey requested for her eggs to be sunny-side-up.
Sara sniffed with distaste and asked for her’s scrambled, pouring OJ, not milk, in her cup.
They went back to their bedroom to pick out some clothes, and Sara chose a get-up in green
So Zoey wore Valentine’s Day pinks and reds, as though nothing could shake her routine.
Side by side in the bathroom, both brushing their teeth, they glared at each other’s reflection...
When Zoey lashed out, “Sara, you’re in my space!” With her fist, Sara offered correction.

“ENOUGH!” cried their mom, firmly taking control. “All this chirping and nagging must end!
From now on you will speak with politeness and tact. If you cannot? Then simply pretend!
You girls are making my hairs all turn grey from the stress and division you’re causing.
Battles rage ‘round the clock, and your tempers are flared every minute without even pausing!
Drop all the outrage, anger and spite, and let’s aim for some peace and tranquility.
Unless you would like to be grounded for life, you must practice the skill of civility.”

Then she used the old line about holding your tongue if you can’t think of nice things to say,
And both Sara and Zoey collapsed into silence -- cold shoulders, both looking away.
They kept their mouths closed on the short walk to school and all through the long day of classes
Which seemed to drag out longer than usual, time thick and slow like molasses.
Their quiet walk home, they stayed hushed over dinner and noiseless remained for three days
With neither girl willing to say a kind word, ending trouble by voicing a phrase.

At first, their mother rejoiced in the stillness, enjoying the muteness of daughters,
But she soon came to worry that nothing would be able to stir up such calm waters.
“Surely you can’t sustain silence forever,” she commented on day number two.
“You don’t have to agree on all things to be kind; a dose of good manners will do.”
Both girls nodded their heads and stared down at their shoes, feeling trapped, uncertain and sad,
For although they were mad, each girl knew in her heart that the other one wasn’t that bad.

How do you broker a truce when both sides of the war feel that they’re in the right?
How do you come back to peace talks when no one wants to look like they’re losing the fight?
For Zoey and Sara, the answer came down to inviting a mediator:
Their mom would give guidance to the conversation they had to have sooner or later.
On Saturday morning they went out for brunch and things got off to a civil start
When they all ordered pancakes and peach juice and quiche (which is a cheesy, egg-filled tart).

When their platters arrived, Sara knew it was time to put their differences aside,
So she timidly asked for Zoey to pass her the syrup, and Zoey complied.
A few seconds later, Zoey needed the salt and asked Sara to lend her a hand;
Sara found it easy to offer assistance, when phrased as request, not demand.
As three they talked over the trouble they’d had last August that caused their estrangement,
And with courtesy and tact the sisters worked out a new, civil and social arrangement.

So now when you meet them, you needn’t be wary of setting their tempers alight.
Though conflicts between them still surface near daily, they discuss them with words quite polite.
While each girl’s developed her own sense of style, they don’t go out of their way to clash;
They’ve come to appreciate ways that they differ, their dealings more like a dance than a crash.
Can we now find peace? Can we settle fights? Well, the advice of their mother proves true:
You don’t have to agree on all things to be kind; a dose of good manners will do.

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