A mother often finds herself in a position where she must look into the mournful eyes of her little girl and lie to her. My mother was no exception to this rule. As the mother of two little girls myself, I can see how the treachery begins.
It usually starts with a small little lie to encourage a more desirable behavior. For example, when potty training you have feigned wild excitement when your child potties closer to the toilet than last time, although you are cursing the fact that you now have crap and urine to scrub off the floor…again.
You often have to pretend to like their little friends when in all actuality you find the whole lot of them annoying and terribly presumptuous little snots. One such friend of my daughters came over to our house a few days after we moved in and exclaimed, “Wow you are right! It is dirty in here!” But as a mother, we tolerate these little heathens so that we cannot be accused of stunting their social development.
As I have grown older and so much ‘wiser,’ I began to realize the small white lies my mother told me throughout childhood that molded me into the cynical, but mildly amusing adult that I am now. There is one lie that I must say has bothered me the most. It is the one where she convinced me I would possess unquantifiable beauty after puberty. With her artistry of storytelling, she often consoled me after an exceptionally rough day at school by weaving the tale of how I would blossom forth from my knobby knees, frizzy hair, buck teeth, and flat chest to become a goddess of not only intellect but also beauty.
At night before going to sleep, I would picture myself as Julia Ormond running away to France, riding on the back of a moped in a polka dot dress with a beautiful long red scarf only then to return to America and have all of the men fall at my feet. So that never happened. I did not make it to France, and I have 15 polka dot dresses in my closet, but none of them transform me into a 5’11” chic bohemian version of myself.
One of these lies I recall quite fondly as well is the one she told me at two o’clock in the morning while we delivered newspapers around the countryside. I dozed beside her in the beat up bumpy Jeep as we bounced down the country lane. My mother, apparently bored, shook my arm to wake me up. In a hushed and dramatic voice, she pointed to the sky and fearfully asked me what I saw. I blearily looked at the dark sky and saw the faint glow of light circling in the sky. I perked up quickly as I had never seen anything like it before. With a sweetness and naivety that my mother relished, I asked her what she thought it could be. Her eyes widened, and she leaned in to whisper her answer. “Rachel, it must be alien ship landing out in a field somewhere looking for people to take back to their planet.”
Fear gripped my heart, and I began to panic, I urged my mother to drive away from the light so that we wouldn’t be the ones abducted. But with her air for the dramatic she determined that we must deliver the rest of the newspapers despite the risks. We barreled down the road at what felt lightening speeds, flinging the papers in every direction and all the while I never took my eyes away from the lights.
Who knew how insidious a lighthouse could appear from a distance in the early hours of the morning? To be fair, my mother told me a lot of truths as well as those little white lies. Of course, I found it much easier to believe the lies.
Ah, youth. But that is a whole other story for another day.