“It tastes like chicken.”
What a lie.
Or not, really. It tasted like chicken because it was, well, chicken. But here’s the thing. I was just joking and now I have to perpetuate the lie until the child is 18 so he won’t be mad at me……
A few weeks back Mark, Mom, #1 and Mr. Smooshy Kissy Cheeks and I went to lunch at Cracker Barrel. Which, honestly, is a place I try to stay out of. I love the kitsch. I just dislike the food. Or, anyway, can’t eat anything there that I’d like the taste of so it hardly makes it worth the look a person gets when they ask if there’s anything wheat-free. I don’t think they even understand what that is. So I resort to saying gluten-free because everyone at least gets that that’s a thing. Then you get the look. Like they think you think you’re the queen of Hollywood and you want to say, seriously, it just gives me an un-freaking-believable stomach ache. So to avoid all that angst you simply ask for the “salad” realizing fully that you will have to pick the onions, croutons and half pound of cheese off yourself but at least it comes with grilled chicken.
Mr. Smooshy-Kissy Cheeks aka Kache ordered a large chocolate milk and a yogurt and granola parfait and though I like to return him to his mother all sugared up, I knew he’d be hanging with me for another 5 hours and would be cranky as hell if there wasn’t some protein mixed in for good measure. I offered to share my salad and he said no, thank you until I pointed to the grilled meat on top.
“Come on,” I said. “Try some of my rattlesnake.”
He looked at me like I was crazy and I truly thought he knew I was joking. He’d heard me order.
“It tastes like chicken,” I continued.
He took a bite and his eyes got big and he nodded his little head.
“It’s good,” he said, taking another bite. “Is it really rattlesnake?”
“Sure.” I winked at him.
Apparently Kache missed the wink. Or thought it was one of my tics. I thought he was just being a good sport as he helped me finish the rest of my
rattlesnake chicken. However, when he and I were perusing the vintage style candy aisle after lunch, choosing a cinnamon stick for him and sugared orange slices (they remind me of my dad) for me I found out different.
“I wouldn’t believe rattlesnake tasted so good Mimi.”
I still didn’t get it.
“I’ll eat it again some time,” he said, looking up at me with a delighted expression on his face.
“You are so cute,” I said.
Still didn’t get it. I mean my gramps told us the gravy Grama poured on our mashed potatoes when she made liver and onions was bear gravy and I knew he was full of shit by the time I was five. My brother believed him and he ate the gravy. I just shook my head at Mike, sincerely worried about his ability to cope with life as he grew up and I couldn’t watch out for him anymore. Four-year-olds are so dumb……
We went to Bass Pro Shop after lunch at CB and walked around looking at everything from enormous cat fish to taxidermied javelina and other assorted animals to boats bigger than my house. It was fun watching Kache with his Papa and Uncle Bubba, checking out camping equipment and dropping quarters into the slots at the target shooting range (Brandon – #1/Uncle Bubba – is the best shot). At one point we were looking at a backpacking cooker/thing and Kache wondered out loud whether or not we could cook rattlesnake over the small flame.
I started to get it.
Later, after he’d filled his mom in on our day, Kache sat with Loran and I while we planned a menu for Mother’s Day picnic at the river.
“Why don’t we just have rattlesnake,” he asked.
“Oh,” Loran said, shooting me a look. “I’m not sure where we’d even buy that.”
“We can just go to Cracker Barrel and get it already cooked,” he said.
“Well,” I said. “Good suggestion but we’re probably just going to have burgers.”
I looked back at Loran in complete shock because, finally, I got it. Little Mr. Sophisticated believed every word I said!
“Of course he did,” Loran said when he was out of earshot. “He’s eight.”
I know that……..
The upshot – after hearing him talk about eating rattlesnake for the next four days, I swore EVERYONE to secrecy until Kache is 18 and can safely hear that his mimi was less than, you know, truthful. Honestly, though, my dad told my kids all kinds of crap and they – okay they probably believed him, but I really thought Kache knew I was full of baloney……. Turns out he trusts me. <sigh>
Which leads me to my point. What is honesty? What is truth? I’ve always held that one person’s truth does not invalidate that of another. Unless you’re Kache and we’re at the park and some kids think I’m his mother and he decides that the actual truth is mui important to get across, and it was fine that he wanted to set them straight but did he have to disabuse me of my emotional truth that I’m hovering around 23?
“SHE’S MY GRANDMOTHER!” Literally could not have said it any louder with a megaphone. “TELL THEM MIMI!”
“I’m pretty sure you just did, buddy.”
“SHE’S WELL INTO HER 50’S!”
I thanked my only grandchild for setting everyone in the park straight about my age, to a chorus of wow, she’s old, from the rest of the under four feet crowd. Kache turned to me and grinned because he’d known the “truth” and now so did everyone else.
“I will sell you on the way home,” I told him. “Cheap.”
I believed in the Catholic Christian God when I was small. As I became aware of my non-Catholic friends and relatives – you know, including my father and bestfriendcousinsister Mindy – I began to wonder how they would get themselves into Heaven and if they could save us all a lot of time and energy and just start going to my church. I wasn’t too worried about my Grama Reenie because she already told all the Jehovah’s Witness and Mormon missionaries who came to her door that she was Catholic and, “it chases them right out the door.” I repeated this conversation to my mother verbatim and her facial expression told me she wanted to say one thing but decided instead to advise me against asking any of my family and/or friends to give up their religion in favor of ours.
“Don’t you want them to get to Heaven,” I asked.
“They’ll be fine,” Mom said. “They don’t need to be Catholic to get to Heaven.”
“Are you sure,” I asked. “That’s not what the nun said in church school.”
“Don’t call her the nun,” Mom said. “She has a name.”
“Her name is Sister Timothy Bartholomew,” I said. “Which is silly. She’s a girl. And she said you have to be Catholic to go to Heaven.”
“I’m sure that’s not what she said.”
But it was and, yes, I argued the point with Mom until she gave me one of the stock adult lines about how I was a kid and she wasn’t and I should quit while I was ahead instead of in my room for the afternoon. We did revisit the subject later and it’s where I had my first lesson in being a Cafeteria Catholic. In short, though the Church says true salvation can only come through a personal relationship with Christ and the Eucharist, those who, through no fault of their own, don’t know Him but still sincerely seek God in thought word, and deed can still slide through the pearly gates. I don’t know how that message translated for Mom, but it eventually came down to it’s a free-for-all to me. It took 30 years for me to, while perusing the selections in the Catholic Cafeteria line, set my plate down and say no thank-you to all of it and seek my own truth. In that time I observed a lot of truths. Some I agree(d) with some not so much. I’ll bet one of my mom’s truths is she wonders, had she steered our conversation in a different direction the first time I brought up other religions, would I be less of a heathen now.
Seriously, though, how would she have done that and remained in her truth?
The truth is we’re all searching and discovering every day.
Mom said to me once that she sometimes doesn’t recognize who I am as she didn’t raise me to be how I am. This was said without malice or disappointment, by the way. She was just curious.
“I am exactly who you raised me to be,” I told her. With an evil grin. Revenge can be so sweet.
Just kidding. I told her with gratitude for her beautiful example of following one’s own truth.
When #1 was born I informed my parents that we would not be perpetuating the myth of Santa Claus. I felt like it would be a lie because, you know, it is. Mom, in her typical respectful way, knowing I had a few years to decide as #1 was only three weeks old on his first Christmas, said okay. Dad? Had a conniption. I caved quickly and “perpetuated the myth” with all five of my progeny. And I don’t think anyone was traumatized when they found out the truth of the matter. I wasn’t traumatized when I found out. Maybe a little pissed because I thought Jeannie Tucker was a damn liar, standing there in the elementary school hall with me, waiting to go to the cafeteria.
“What did Santa bring you,” I asked her.
“Nothing,” said the youngest child of older parents who had several much older siblings who spoiled it all for me that fateful day when I was barely eight years old – but I’m not still bitter.
“Nothing?” Holy crap! So he really does demand that you be good. “What did you do?”
“Nothing,” she said again and in an are you stupid tone of voice. “There’s no such thing as Santa Claus. Your mom and dad buy the presents.”
I don’t remember what happened immediately after that defining moment. I may have blacked out. The following Sunday, however, I sat my mother down at the dining table at Grama and Grampa’s house and asked her if what Jeannie had said was true. She looked around at Dad, Mike (only seven) and my grandparents but apparently nobody had any brilliant ideas on how to salvage not only my childhood but that of my younger brother. Well, and Dad’s. My dad looooooved Christmas.
“Yes,” Mom said in a very gentle, kind of sad voice. “It’s true.”
I started to cry and I heard my dad ask Mom why she told me.
“What was I supposed to do,” she said. “I couldn’t lie to her.” She sat me on her lap and hugged me.
“Will I still get presents,” I sobbed out after a minute.
“Of course,” she said.
I heard a chorus of adult voices assuring me of the same. I sucked in several shaky breaths, then abruptly decided to cut my losses.
“Okay,” I said, on my last wail, before starting to calm down.
I recovered quickly as did Mike but Dad never recovered. The man loved Christmas. And Thanksgiving and Halloween. He loved perusing the candy aisles in October and picking out which kinds to buy, which kinds would be hoarded and which morsels would actually make it into the baskets of the trick-or-treaters. This childlike sense of wonder took him all the way through the holidays and in spite of the fact that there is no Santa (and he knew it) was his truth.
I’ll never regret the years spent living the mystery of Santa myself nor those spent planning and executing the surprised on Christmas if for no other reason than it brought joy to him – to all of us.
One person’s truth does not invalidate that of another. I believe this and I have been told, by several people that I’m wrong and that it’s too bad because I’ll have plenty of time to think about it while I’m laboring alone under my spiritual delusions or, you know, burning slowly in hell, depending to whom I am speaking. I don’t worry any longer, however. I don’t try to convince people I’m right because there’s really, really no point. Their truth is theirs and it’s valid. As for mine, well it’s my story and I’m sticking to the same.
It tastes like chicken.