Seven Siblings received a letter from their Papa, a weathered and affectionate postcard from his long journey abroad. My Dears, it began,
…How I’ve missed you all! I’ve been all over the world, but in every passing place, in every stranger’s face, all I see is you. Are you getting along well? Showing each other kindness every day? And how about your mom? I simply worship your mother, kids; she is the best woman in the world, and the very air I breathe. Take care of her for me!
Eat your vegetables, wash behind your ears, keep your shoes tied. I’ll be back in no time at all! Meanwhile, my loves, remember that you are all mine, and all each others’. You are one family; defend, serve, and love each other at all times.
I love you each more than life itself.
~ Your proud Papa
The Kids looked up from the letter with tears in their eyes. What a father they had! Each beating heart was oh, so very much his at that moment, overwhelmed by the love he evoked and expressed with just a brief missive.
The Youngest turned and ran toward the kitchen. “Where are you going in such a hurry?” asked the Eldest with a smile.
“Daddy said eat my vegetables,” came the innocent reply, “I’m gonna go have some now!”
Heheh. So cute, that one. Such love.
The Middle children, never left in the shadows, were also consumed with their father’s love and pride. They could almost feel his huge arms encircling them again. They scampered off toward the woodshop.
“Well what are you three up to?” asked the Eldest, surprised.
“We’re going to build Mom a shrine!” exclaimed the oldest Middle, “Papa said to worship her, because she’s like the air!”
“I don’t think that’s what he…” but they were already out of earshot, tools in hand.
Well this is going oddly…
And so it went: one child constantly washing his ears, another always keeping his shoes tied. The Youngest preached the virtue of going vegan; the Middles wondered why no one joined them at their nightly ceremonies to honor Mother. Frustrations grew into outright tension:
“Well, why would anyone eat meat anyway?”
“Forget meat - why are your shoes untied? Don’t you believe Papa will be back before we know it? You’re not even ready!”
“Oh come on, don’t you realize he mainly just wants us to love each other?”
“Yeah but that doesn’t mean we can ignore his instructions!”
Eyes got rolled and arms were crossed. The longer they disagreed, the more they kept to themselves, hidden away in their chosen rooms - the kitchen, the woodshop, the coat room, the bathroom. All they talked about, to themselves or anyone who would listen, was their favorite part of the letter, and why it trumped all the other parts, and why Papa would be most proud of them when he came back.
Soon enough they stopped speaking to each other at all, beyond a nod in passing. The Younger resented the Middles for their gustational disregard; the Middles belittled the younger Elders for their their minute attention to the minor Commandments; the younger Elders despised the Younger and the Middles for loving Papa less than they; and they all resented the Eldest for refusing to choose a side.
They were no longer the joyful, loving children their Papa remembered, but each one defensive and arrogant and absolutely right in their own eyes. The neighbors moved away, tired of all the fighting that spilled through open windows in the summer. Pedestrians learned to cross the street when passing the Kids’ house, lest they get a zealous sermon about Papa’s “love” for ear-washing vegetarians.
And so they lived for many years, divided and discordant, each smugly betting that, when Papa finally did come back, he would like them the best, because after all, they’d been right all along.And that’s what really matters…isn’t it?