Believe it or not, when I was a kid I’d sometimes tell stories that didn’t represent the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. As a result, when my mother found out that I’d stayed after school for shooting spitballs at Suzie Springer—and not because I’d volunteered to set up chairs in the auditorium for the annual Smalltown Elementary Stars and Stripes Variety Show , as I’d claimed—I’d get my mouth washed out with soap. I never liked that but, as a result of my childhood experience, I can tell you that Ivory tastes better than Lifebuoy, Lifebuoy better than Dial, Dial has overtones of citrus and industrial chemicals, Irish Spring was “Manly, yes . . .” but I didn’t like it, and Lava had the flavor I’d expect of toxic waste and was abrasive enough to sand all the taste buds off my tongue. So, you can imagine my frustration when I figured out later in life that my mother didn’t always tell the truth either.
“It was for your own good Joey.” That was her justification. “It wasn’t really a lie; it was just a little fib.”
That’s why it was okay for her to tell me I was really smart and that the only reason Mrs. Wilson kept me in the third grade for three years was because I was such a good boy and she really liked me.
It was for my own good that she told me I was the best looking boy in my fifth grade class.
“But Peggy said I have buck teeth, freckles, beady eyes and thick glasses,” I’d explain.
“Well, that’s true Joey; those are the things that make you look like your father. You’re a Wright boy and in a few years you’ll grow into that look and all the girls will be fighting over you.”
Turns out there wasn’t a lot of fighting going on when I got to high school. Thank goodness I met Winnie, who has also, over the years, taken in a one-eyed Beagle, a three-legged cat with the mange, three blind mice and, when we were raising laying hens, a banty rooster with chronic laryngitis and erectile dysfunction.
I, like my father, and his father before him, never grew into my looks. My mother had fibbed.
In my mother’s defense, I’ve discovered that she’s not the only child-rearing woman prone to distortion of the facts. I’ve heard Winnie tell some whoppers to our young ones over the years.
As luck would have it, Jake takes after the Londons more than the Wrights so she didn’t have to convince him he’d grow into his looks; but he was certain of the existence of the Easter Bunny and the old man in the white beard and red suit until he put it all together when his little sister, Maggie, leaked the truth about the Tooth Fairy when he crashed his bike and knocked out a front tooth at thirteen years old.
That’s not to say Maggie is less gullible than her big brother. She’s over thirty now and still believes that thunder is the angels bowling in heaven and babies are delivered by the stork.
Mom, now that I’m grown with kids of my own, I understand why, at times, you lied to me. It’s just like the time I told you that someone ran into your car in the Small-Mart parking causing thousands of dollars damage to your nearly new Impala while I was inside at the pharmacy picking up your thyroid medicine. It was for your own good and it wasn’t really a lie . . . just a little fib.