I still remember the first lie I ever told.
I grew up in a tiny farming community population 650. I was in the second grade and the class consisted of about 28 students, so we were divided into two classrooms each with their own teacher. Although I am now foggy as to the exact nature of the issue, as best as I can remember it involved something of one the teachers turned up missing. At the end of the day each teacher addressed their students on the subject of honesty and asked for whatever was taken to be returned and there would be no questions asked.
When I got home from school I told Mom about the missing whatever, but I added something. I told her, as I was leaving school, the other teacher said, “Why don’t you return it? We know you took it.” What possessed me say that, I don’t have a clue. I don’t know if I was trying to show off, which is something I was known to do from time to time. I didn’t dislike the other teacher. Maybe I was just trying to inject a little drama into my small town, second grade life. Well let me tell you, drama I got.
My Mom was mad. Nobody messed with her one and only child, nobody. Who did this teacher think she was? She had no right to accuse me. She didn’t have any proof and besides it wasn’t true. For Mom, I was simply incapable of doing such a thing. In this case Mom was right. Later in life, however, I sorely abused my parents trust, but that is another story (and much, much longer). My Mom decided to call in the ultimate fire power, my Dad.
This was before the age of emails and cell phones. My Dad worked trimming trees underneath electrical lines for a rural power company and the only way to reach him was call his company’s office, leave a message, hope they would give it to him, and wait for him to call back. My Mom called and asked for the operator to notify my Dad to call her when he arrived back at the end of the day. This time the procedure worked like a charm, Dad called a few minutes before four o’clock. I heard Mom heatedly telling him the lie I told her and then lots of “hmms”, “that’s right”, and finally “sounds good to me.” When she got off the phone she said Dad was on his way to the school and would talk to the teacher and set this straight.
I broke out in a cold sweat.
I had never lied to my parents before. I had never even embellished the truth. I hadn’t told a white lie. I had never told a lie of any sort, for any reason, ever. Until now. Now I was sweating. I didn’t know what to do. I went outside. I walked around the yard. I don’t remember exactly what I was thinking, but probably something along the lines of wishing for a car to veer off the street in front of our house and run over me, or a plane to crash-land on me. Anything to get me out of this jam. I couldn’t think of a single way to get my butt out of what I had heard my Dad refer to as a “rock and a hard place.” Suddenly, I had a whole new appreciation for that phrase.
About an hour (seemed like an eternity) later my Dad drove up. Everyone at the school had been gone except the school secretary. Dad was one of those type of guys who only talked to those he had a problem with. If the next door neighbor’s son was a problem, Dad only discussed it with the son. The parents would never know. So when the teacher wasn’t in, Dad simply made an appointment to see her after school the next day.
I don’t know if this is when I first began to believe in a Higher Power answering the pleas of us sinners or not, but it had to be close. I would live and breathe for another day.
I ate dinner in a stupor. Rather than going outside to play, I went to my room. My bedtime was 8:00 pm, I was in bed, pretending to be asleep by 7:00. I didn’t know what to do and I couldn’t think of a single way to get out of this mess.
The next day I was a zombie at school. I had slept less than a couple of hours. I was exhausted, my insides had liquefied, I wasn’t talking to my friends, and I had no appetite. I was still hoping for the car or plane to hit me.
As I was dragging my self home wracking my brain for the 1,670,942,428 time, I had an epiphany. It was like in the midst of all the darkness a sudden spark of light erupted. I was in shock.
I would tell the truth.
I would tell Mom I lied, she could call Dad, Dad wouldn’t go and confront the teacher, and when he got home they would take turns beating my butt into bloody oblivion, but it was better than what I was currently feeling. I wanted physical pain. Especially if it would alleviate this internal hell I was going through.
I got home and before I kissed Mom, or threw my books on the bed, or asked for milk and cookies, I looked her in the eye, opened my mouth…and began to cry my eyes out. Tears shot out of my eyes like a horizontal water fountain, snot started running out my nose, and I began to shake all over. God, why didn’t that car run over me? Mom was stunned (to say the least). She came across the room, bent down on one knee and pulled me into her. Let me tell you, there are few things in life that feel as good as your Mom hugging you, especially if you are a lying little snit and you wonder if your parents are going to kill you when you confess.
After cooing over me and getting a tissue out of her pocket (Momma was old school, she always carried tissues) to attempt to clean me up, she held me out at arm’s length, looked me in the eye, and asked in that soft southern draw, “Honey, its okay, what’s the matter?”
In between my sniffles and shaking I blurted out, “Momma, I lied! The teacher never said I took nothing!”
End of cooing, end of wiping tears from my face, end of soft voice, end of being on one knee. Mom jumped up and shot me “The Eye.” The one where you know you’ve done wrong and all that remains is your execution. I remember a flash going through my mind wondering if that would be the last time Mom ever hugged me (thank God it wasn’t).
Her voice was like ice-cold hardened steel cutting through warm tender flesh (to be read: my heart). Her eyes narrowed and through lips you couldn’t have pried apart with a crowbar she hissed, “I hope I can reach your Father.” and off she stomped to the phone. I went into the living room sat down and whimpered some more. God, I’m not doing this again I thought, no matter what. This is crazy, stupid and dumb. I hate feeling this way and it looks like I’ve got a long way to go before things start getting any better.
I don’t know how long it was before Mom came into the living room and said in the same hissing voice, “They got hold of your Dad, he is on his way home.”
I figured that would be when I would die.
Dad came home, we set down for dinner, and Dad talked about everything under the sun, except my lie. I picked at my food like a condemned man awaiting his final walk. Mom and Dad talked, I kept my eyes glued to my plate. After dinner Dad helped Mom in the kitchen and I went to watch TV with my eyes, while my ears stayed tuned to the low soft murmuring coming from them as they stood in front of the sink. I knew they were talking about me, but I couldn’t make out a word they were saying. Later they both came in and joined me in front of the TV. Nothing was said to me, their son, the liar.
Next day, and the next, and the next, same thing. Dad came home, we did the family routine, and I did not get massacred.
On the following Saturday afternoon Dad and I were wrestling around on the living room floor. There was brief lull in our tumbling and goofing and he said, “You know Bud (he always called me Bud, don’t know why and he never said) you really ought not to lie.” I mumbled something back like, “OK” and we went back to rolling around, but my little seven-year old mind was reeling.
YOU GOT TO BE KIDDING ME!
I’ve been spanked for traipsing into the kitchen with mud on my shoes. I’ve been set in the corner for bouncing a rubber ball off the side of the house. I’ve not been allowed to play outside with all my friends because I rode my bike off the sidewalk into a neighbor’s yard. But for telling my first biggest whopper ever in my young life, I’m told not to do it again?, while Dad holds me in his arms?
YOU GOT TO BE KIDDING ME!
For four days of sheer terror, in which I thought the life I loved was going to end for all eternity I get told not to do it again.
Hmm, this is different. I’m going to have to think about this. To my pea brain this could only mean one thing.
Telling a lie wasn’t all that big of a deal.
I figured it was kind of important. But nothing like having mud caked on your shoes, while standing at the sink getting a glass of water, and the water somehow dripping down on your shoes causing the mud to turn into this kind of oozing dirty slime, or riding your bike a few feet into the stupid neighbor’s precious yard through her yucky flower beds. It wasn’t even as bad as bouncing a rubber ball off the asbestos siding on the house and chipping out a couple, or more, silly divots. Heck, if you were a few hundred feet away you could hardly see them.
Telling a lie wasn’t all that big of a deal.
That is what stuck in my seven-year old mind.
First a few clarifications. I am not laying the blame for all the lies I’ve told in my life at the feet of my parents. Seeing as how my mind developed during my teen years, I am quite positive if they had sawed my tongue out with a rusty corroded razor blade, I would still have went on lying either by writing or conveying them via ASL. I would have found a way. I take full and complete responsibility for every deception, lie, and half truth (if there is such a thing) I have ever told. Nobody held a gun to my head.
Second, my parents would have been horrified at the way I have interpreted these events. This was never their intention, nor could they have ever imagined such an outcome. They were loving parents with a rowdy child. They had been married for thirteen years when I was born and I am an only child. So they were set in their ways, so to speak. They did everything possible to insure I had what I needed for a well-rounded life. It just took until I was in my late thirties for it to all take effect. I’m afraid I am a card-carrying member of “The Late-Bloomer Association.”
I want to foster a conversation about why we start lying. Why did you start? Do you remember your first lie? What was it? How did it make you feel? Think about it and let me know. And if this is one of those things you don’t want the whole world (not that this blog has quite that large of a readership, but you never know) to know then send it to my email http://firstname.lastname@example.org and I will keep it private.
Again, thank you for reading these long posts. God, I wish I could write 300 words and they would hit like a sledgehammer, but I don’t think it will ever happen.