Break your own rules

If I say “Food fight.” you may think of Animal House.

I think of my mother.

I am in high school in Alexandria, Virginia. My sister is three years younger. We are in the kitchen, it is hot. 99 degrees F and 98 percent humidity and the back door is open. We do not have air conditioning. We are eating watermelon. The old kind: with seeds.

My mother holds up a seed, pinched between her fingers, looking wicked.

My eyes narrow. “If you shoot that, you started it.” …. not in the house, is the unspoken rule that echoes.

She shoots it at me.

We all three start pinching the slick black watermelon pits at each other, laughing like hyenas. In a large kitchen with open shelves and dishes placed on all the shelves, often nested. It devolves into small chunks of watermelon, hurled at each other. No rinds, because of the open shelves. At last we all run out of pits and watermelon and stopped

There is silence while we survey the very impressive mess. There are watermelon seeds everywhere. And the floor is pretty wet.

Watermelon is STICKY.

We laugh more and start cleaning up. I leave for work or school or something.

Later my mother says, “I washed the floor three times before it stopped feeling sticky. And I kept finding watermelon seeds in the dishes on the shelves for the next two years.”

And: “It was worth it.”

The photograph is of my mother in high school.