My cousins and I would try to bide the time while at our granny’s small one room shack by the river. With no television, no toys, and no other sources of entertainment in the tight quarters our options came down to playing cards, fishing, and quietly using our imagination. I’d often bide much of my time journaling, or practicing my needlepoint. There was nothing quite as satisfying as sitting next to granny helping to hand peel the peas picked fresh from her garden that morning, while my cousins more loved taking on the fish near the pier.
All the while through these visits we thought about the beach. It was located only one mile up the busy road from where we slept. “Can we go to the beach,” must have been a question our mothers answered on a set interval of every five minutes.
Our persistence was multiplied by three, and as a mother now I can imagine the wear of our consistent questioning grew to a point that there was no way to focus on anything else, so “the beach is closed,” became the answer.
This seemed understandable enough, we can’t go if there is no access to it. We nodded, accepting that answer and dropping the subject until tomorrow when we would check and see if the “tide was low enough” for the beach to open its gates.
This past Fourth of July as the entire state of New Jersey fell for Chris Christie’s declaration that the “beach was closed” I laughed in empathy and in kindred spirit, and a story of my childhood I had not thought of for some time was now quickly being shared amongst my now parent friends. I find the story humorous, how silly that we fell for such a fib, but the ears that my story fell onto had a sea of reactions from horror, disgust, and anger.
“How could your parents lie to you? I would never lie to my child!”
Why I wonder as I think of my father walking in with my mother’s not quite hardened fudge dripping down his pointer finger. “Is that fudge,” my four year old spirit stirred for the sweet tastes that came with Christmas in my childhood home.
He took a big drag of his lips up his fingers licking it clean and smiled, “nah this is dog poop I found in the backyard.”
My nose scrunched up in disbelief, and still to this day I look back and laugh at that simple touch of sophomoric humor.
One night when I was three I came down with a virus. “Why am I throwing up,” I asked my mom, scared of the things my body was doing and I could not understand.
“It’s your binky, you’re too old for it and it is making you sick.”
If the batteries died on a toy, the toy was “broken” and most likely would never function with lights or sounds again. I think broken was a much nicer and easier to understand story for my fragile six year old soul than, I’m sorry honey we are so destitute we don’t even know how we are going to make the mortgage next month much less buy you a new pack of double A batteries.
If I came to my mom’s room with a sore in my mouth she would investigate and nod as if she felt the pain I must be suffering. “That’s a sore alright,” she’d start, “have you been using bad words, or have you told a lie?”
I’d look up at her in shame, “I called my brother stupid.”
“Yup, that’ll do it, we have to say nice words for a clean mouth.”
For my brother who had a terrible junk food habit fried okra was “peanuts”, and nutri grain bars were “pop tarts”. A lie we kept rolling not only as a household, but even our local church would be in on it.
My mother came by it honestly, her magical dishonesty. To keep her out of their hair her aunt and uncle would suggest things like, if you pour salt on a birds tale it will follow you anywhere. Attempting to achieve this mystical feat kept her entertained for hours on end. If there was some place dangerous her father didn’t want her exploring, there was “a Gianther in there”.
Those little lies that made the impossible to you and me a wonder of hope for someone so small.
I attribute much of my off beat creativity to the lies I grew up believing, because the lies broke down the barriers other children grew up already knowing. I trust my mother no less than anyone who grew up with the overly honest mother. And with maturity the ugly reality of truth revealed itself in its due time.
I read posts from mothers that are so strict, so hard on themselves, struggling to be so open and honest; so perfect. Cancelling Santa, because even the magic of Christmas is a lie. Exposing their children to realities and maturity before their minds have even developed enough to fully grasp the concepts. Your kids will have all of their life to suffer through the mundane, and harsh bitter realities, do they not deserve some period of innocence and wonder?
With no fault to anyone, I was a child who had my innocence ripped from me before I turned 11. I consider myself though, a lucky one. It’s a precious delicate thing with a definite expiration date. Reality will hit without our willing hands as mothers.
I’m just a person. I am flawed and I will never be that “perfect” mother. I don’t want to be, life’s too short to worry so much about what I am doing wrong that I forget to just do what I feel is right for me and my family.
What sort of lies did your mother tell you?