Leaning forward I quietly asked my daughter, “Do you remember the first time you lied and knew you were lying?”
Niki shrugged and said, “No. I don’t think so.”
“Well, I do.” I confessed. “I was in second grade and I hated the baggy brown stockings I had to wear to school. They wrinkled around my ankles and looked terrible. The stockings I wore to church on Sunday mornings were white and not at all saggy…probably because they were worn only one day of the week, whereas the brown stockings were continuously washed and worn. Both required a garter belt to hold them up.”
Amused by my tale, Niki asked, “How did wearing saggy socks cause you to lie?”
“Pride.” I said with a sad shake of my head. “One evening after school I told Mom that my teacher, Sister Mary Michaeleen, wanted all of the girls in the class to start wearing their white stockings to school.”
Chuckling, my daughter said, “Did Grammie fall for that lie?”
I said, “Of course not. I’m the youngest of seven children. She had four other girls before me and hadn’t just fallen off the turnip truck. What I wanted and why was entirely transparent.”
Niki asked, “Why are you telling me this?”
I said, “While cleaning out a chest of drawers in the farmhouse basement, I came across a bunch of wax fruit. The feel of the wax in my hands delighted me just as much at it did when I was nine. It was in fact, the very same fruit that caused me to tell my second childhood lie.”
Continuing my confession, I said, “That summer Mom had a bowl of wax fruit for a center piece on the kitchen table. One afternoon too hot for me to go out and play, I sat at the table looking at the fascinating fruit. There was a banana, orange, pear and apple in the wooden bowl. All looked real and delicious.”
“I knew I wasn’t supposed to handle the fruit, but Mom wasn’t in the kitchen, so I picked up the banana. The wax felt smooth and so interesting. I wondered if the wax would be banana flavored if I took a bite. After all, the bright red wax lips sold in the stores at Halloween tasted like cherries.”
“Running my thumb nail down the side of the long, yellow fruit produced a small curl of wax. I recognized that the darkened areas on the fruit were a touch of artistic cleverness, increasing its appearance as real fruit.”
“The color of the orange and its goose-bumped skin fascinated me. Rubbing my fingers over it, I looked at the heavy-bottomed pear next to it. More subtly colored, it sat taking up its space in the bowl like a middle-aged wall flower.”
“Almost against my will, I picked up the red-blushed apple. I loved this fruit the most. Suddenly my thumb nail began etching my initials on one side. The curls of wax smelled nice. Not like an apple, but like nice, clean wax.”
“Mom discovered what I’d done the following morning. Showing me the apple, she said directly looking at me, “Did you do this?”
“Realizing that what I’d done was really stupid, I denied everything. I felt embarrassed. If the floor would have opened and swallowed me, I would have felt some sort of relief.”
My daughter said, “You were a typical kid.”
I nodded. As an adult I’ve developed an abhorrence of lies. The guilt after telling one is awful, and being lied to makes me feel disrespected.
The first lie I told as a child was triggered by a desire to look nice. I now recognize that a strong moral compass can keep a person from lying when it is done for the want of something.
The second lie I remember telling was also prompted by pride…I was trying to save face. Embarrassment when caught in the wrong makes lying a strong temptation. Unfortunately, as in the case of the wax apple, the evidence was totally undeniable.
“What did you do with the wax fruit that you found?” Niki asked.
I replied, “I threw out the pear, caressed the orange and gouged it with my finger nails. All I allowed myself to do with the banana was run my thumb nail down its side.”
My daughter sighed like a long suffering mother and asked, “Did you etch your initials in the apple again?”
I answered sadly, “The apple was missing.”