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The Combat Zone

by Matt McKinley

The combat zone. It's amazing how easy it is to diminish the importance of family time . Ever since my mother had married my stepfather, I felt our family had gone to the trash heap.

The merge of two broken families is always a hard process.We no longer traveled, we no longer relaxed together, we no longer enjoyed our weekly family getaways. Every day was filled with tension, with screams and misunderstandings.

As I kept approaching college age, I decided enough had gone by. The bonds between our family were too important to allow to be broken up. Thus, for my brother's, my mom's and my sake, I started putting my summer camp counselor awesomeness into family time, and the whole household had better be involved

What I'm about to share with you has been one of my most successful strategies, divided into easily followed steps.

Step One: Buy the Ammo Go to your local $1 dollar store and raid the toys section. I bought enough water balloons to last 6 hours with just $5 dollars

Step Two: Rally out the crowd I brought both my mom and stepfather to the living room and proposed my idea. I told them we needed a family day for both of our sides to be stronger. I told them I had bought the water balloons and all I needed was for them to participate. It took half an hour to convince them, but we managed to come to an agreement. On the other hand, what child does not enjoy getting himself and his parents wet?

I must say I have not yet encountered such child. Thus, all I had to say to my siblings was: "We're all having a water balloon fight" and show them my water balloon packets to have chorused screams of delight.

Step Three: Reserve a warm week-end day. Check the weather and double check no one in the family is going to come up with random dates or escapades. We settled for a Sunday.

Step Four: Load the Ammo and claim a combat zone. It is important not to underestimate the value of this step. When done as a whole family, the fun is unbelievable. For us, excitement was in the air, so everyone was trying to set up something so we could start earlier. My little brother, my stepbrother (older than me), and my stepfather, all army junkies, were excitedly setting up a war-style back-yard.

They brought out old boxes, the plastic life-size house my step-sister used to have, bikes and my stepfather's truck for bases and obstacles. My mom, ever the meticulous one, was helping me fill out and tying the water balloons and making sure all the buckets had sufficient water so they would not break.

My little step-sister, the youngest of us all, never had a water balloon fight before in her life, so she was shivering in delight every time we passed her a water balloon so she could put them in the buckets. After the boys set up the "war" zone, we finished up with some mischievous pre-soakings and the spread the balloon-filled buckets in strategic zones throughout the backyard.

Step Five: Let the fun begin. As soon as the last bucket was placed, an automatic consensus was reached and the water balloon fight began. It is hard to put into words the afternoon that followed. Everything was a blur of splashes, laughter, runs, team-ups, strategies, ducks, throws, rolls, and getting those water balloons to the targets.

My brother and stepbrother, both ardent X-box360 video games' fans, couldn't help but screaming "Fire in the Hole!" from the top of my stepfather's truck. My dog claimed a spot on the backyard and no doubt enjoyed the spectacle the humans had obviously prepared for him that day.

We spent almost four hours in the lighthearted company of each other until the last water-balloon was used. Yet, we had so much fun that none of us had felt more than 10 minutes gone by. Absolutely soaked, laughing and happy, we went back to the garage area were my stepfather had decided to make a grilled dinner. We all bonded together and that day is still a topic of rejoice even years after.

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