After last week’s Mother’s Day edition of Nostalgia Tuesday in which I admitted that Mom taught me how to swear, I thought I’d follow up this week with the story of another fine and handy skill instilled in me by my mother.
Mom taught me how to lie.
At the time, I think she called it “good manners” or something, but any four-year-old kid knows a lie when he sees one.
When I was four my grandparents lived on a farm out in the middle of nowhere in Kansas. When most people think of Kansas they think of flat land prairie with nothing but wheat fields as far as the eye can see. This is not where my grandparents lived. They had a farm eight miles from the nearest paved road, nestled in a gorgeous river valley in the northeast part of the state. It looked much more like the Texas hill country than the “postcard” image of Kansas people have in their minds. Anyway, that’s more detail than you needed to tell you the point of this paragraph: It was a long freaking drive from Dallas, Texas to Granny’s house for Christmas.
Perhaps inspired by the other recent “demonstrations of my verbal acuity,” Mom took the long drive as an opportunity to teach me that “just because I think something doesn’t mean I need to say it.” Specifically, she wanted to teach me to be gracious and say “thank you” for gifts from my grandmother even if I didn’t like what she had given me. (Y’know, things like plaid pants and ridiculous bowties.)
brainwashing … reprogramming … coaching worked a little too well.
During the present opening extravaganza of Christmas morning, my grandmother brought out a gift for my dad: A new suit. Of course, the suit was on a hanger and wrapped in plastic to keep it clean.
As a four-year-old who didn’t know any better, I knew what I saw: An opportunity to use those acting chops mom had been nurturing during that eight hour car ride. I turned on my brightest beaming smile and shouted…
“OH DADDY! JUST WHAT YOU ALWAYS WANTED! A GARBAGE BAG!”
Considering how many times that story has been retold around the family, I suppose I also learned an important corollary to mom’s lesson in “manners” that day:
“If you’re going to lie, make it believable.”