When I was eight I told my mother I wanted to grow up and join the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. “That’s great, Honey,” she said. “You go for it.” Years later, I learned of her deceit. How was I supposed to know you had to be Mormon?As kids, many of our beliefs are based on falsehoods perpetrated by our parents. My mother had me completely duped by tales of Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. Sure, some of my childhood beliefs, like the sharks that circled beneath my bed at night, were nothing more than the imaginings of my underdeveloped brain. But more often than not, my mother just flat-out lied to me.
Because of her, I made a fool of myself on the school field trip to the dairy when I asked, “Where do you keep the brown cows that give chocolate milk?” My classmate’s laughter still resonates in my head.
My mother told me that if I peed in a pool, the water around me would turn blue. The unsurvivable mortification of such an event is how I perfected my incredible bladder control, which, I am now sure, was the whole point.
She had me believing that rain was angels crying because I’d done something wrong. If Southern California had higher precipitation, I would be one deeply disturbed woman. The only good thing about the drought.
Mom said that if your left palm itches you’re going to come into money, and if your right palm itches you’re going to shake hands with a friend. If your nose itches you’re going to either have a fight or kiss a fool. If your butt itches, butter is cheap. Don’t ask.
My mother also sucked me into the pretend world of peripheral childhood deities. I believed wholeheartedly in the Tooth Fairy, Mr. Sandman, Jack Frost and his cousin Frosty, and the Abominable Snowman, who would kidnap me if I got out of bed at night, and Davy Jones—of locker fame—who would pull me under the waves if I ventured into deep water. I know now that Mom used fear to protect me. But she needn’t have damaged my innocent psyche; I would have stayed in shallow water for a Hershey bar.
And the white lies were not limited to my mother. On long car trips I believed my father when—after downing several soft drinks—he’d stop on the side of the road and say, “I have to chase a puppy in the woods.” I always wanted to go along and help, but he said I’d slow him down. Those puppies must have been awfully fast because he never caught one.
Yet there are some parental falsehoods that I still wish were true, like when my mother explained that my hated freckles were actually angel kisses and I had so many because they loved me so much. And I’d still like to believe in the Tooth Fairy, a sympathetic benefactor who’d leave money when I lost a tooth instead of a $2,000 dental bill. And I’d really like to believe that one day I’ll sing in the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.