Have you ever noticed crazy things pop into your mind if you are afforded the luxury of lying bed for a while before you have to get up? So many memories, thoughts, and sometimes great ideas settle in that crucial time between waking up and actually getting out of bed. This morning was one of those days. As I lay there my thought pattern progressed back to 2nd grade. I was 7. My mom always woke my sister and I up so terribly early. At least 2 hours before the sun. Ok, maybe not that early but it sure felt like it. The reasoning behind this was simply that everything had to be cleaned every day. So we absolutely had to be up early enough to not only get ourselves ready for the day, but also get our bedrooms ready for the day. This included making beds and vacuuming. Don’t feel sorry for me. It only lasted 18 years. Besides, it was ok to be up early. Sometimes I would have time before school to ride my bike, or color, or take a nap. This day I rode my bike. Just a quick trip around the block. I came right up on the neighbor kid playing with chalk on the sidewalk. Almost ran him over. His name was Ryan. He was the same age as me. Actually he was in the same class as me. I only remember him as being kinda loud and bratty. Yep. A 7 year old boy. I’m sure any female could look back at second grade and remember a classmate of the opposite sex as being loud and bratty. I didn’t say much, probably not even hi. I was pretty shy. Yeah, that’s it. Shy. I detoured around him and finished my ride.
Soon it was time to take the long walk to school. It was only a small distance but it seemed like miles back then. I even took a shortcut over Water Tank Hill. (Small town, only hill, water tank on top: Water Tank Hill.) I say shortcut but it was a hill. An unnecessary hill. It was more fun. My best friend and next door neighbor Megan always walked with me. We went over the hill. All the kids did. There weren’t any houses up there–just wilderness. In-town kind of wilderness but still wild unknown. There were always odd looking rocks to find too. I’ve always liked to find rocks. This day was no different. Megan and I dawdled along laughing and chatting and picking up rocks hoping they might have been shooting stars. Eventually we made it back to civilization and started toward the school. I looked down at the rocks in my hand and noticed my bracelet was gone. My plastic, multi-colored, pop-bead bracelet was gone! At 7 years old you can imagine: it was my most prized possession. I looked at my other wrist hoping maybe I had switched it over without thinking. Nope. Megan and I started looking around wondering if it had just recently broke off. We started backtracking.
Little by little we wandered back up Water Tank Hill. We found nothing. I was so upset. I really didn’t want to lose my bracelet. We looked and looked until I started to feel a little panic about something else. I realized we were going to be late for school. ”Oh no,” I thought “how long have we been looking?” At his point in my life. I really had no concept of time, but the anxious, awful feeling in my stomach told me school had already started. We gave up and hurried back down the hill. I hung my head trying to think of what might have happened to my bracelet and, most likely, trying not to cry. I cried a lot when I was little. Ok, I still do but this bit of jewelry was a birthday present from my little sister. My birthday was in August and this being September, the novelty had not worn off. We walked quickly along the sidewalks, but we couldn’t help but still look for it. Bingo. There is was. Right on the sidewalk! How could we have missed it? I had it back. That was all that mattered. I had it back. We ran the rest of the way but as we approached the playground fear overcame us. There were no children on the playground. We ran inside and went to our classrooms.
Everyone was quiet. My teacher, Mrs. Frank, was sitting at her desk. I tried not to look at her as I headed toward my seat. I realized the pledge had already been said. “This is not good,” I thought. Maybe I could just slip into my desk so quietly she won’t notice. Eventually she would look up and say, “Oh, Carly, I thought you weren’t here today but there you are, sitting in your desk.” I would say, “Oh yes, I’ve been here the whole time.” Then we would both smile sweetly. No such luck.
“Carly, come here please.” It was Mrs. Frank. I slowly stood and walked toward the front of the classroom. The pencil sharpener someone had been furiously cranking away at instantly became silent. I stopped in front of her big, gray, metal desk.
“Why are you late?” she asked, in a genuinely caring voice. I looked at her and said the first thing that came to mind.
“I slept in.”
My eyes widened as I realized I had just told a LIE. A flat out lie to Mrs. Frank, the best, nicest teacher I had ever had in my whole life. I lied to her. Maybe it was because I had the bracelet on my wrist now and she might not have believed I lost it. Maybe I lied because I had never slept in on a school day ever. It sounded really cool. I held her questioning gaze steadily while these thoughts were tumbling like a gymnast in my head. However, neither of us had time to respond before a certain loud, bratty voice chimed in from the back of the room. “NO SHE DIDN’T! I SAW HER RIDING HER BIKE THIS MORNING!” It was Ryan. Of course. Ryan. I held my breath and tried to ignore the burning sensation in my cheeks. My classmates were eagerly ingesting the drama. I was still looking at Mrs. Frank.
“Is that true, Carly?”
“Yeah,” I whispered, terrified of what might happen to me.
“What is the real reason you are late?” she queried.
I looked at my shoes and softly answered, “I lost my bracelet and went back to look for it.”
“Did you find it?”
“Yes,” I said as I held up my arm for evidence.
“You lied.” I could already feel the tears gathering and my throat closing. “Go sit down,” she said.
And that was it. I don’t remember any more. Maybe nothing ever happened but I remember that day and that lie. Every time it comes to mind that raw feeling of guilt is fresh. That feeling of hurting someone you look up to. Hurting them in a way that makes them think less of you. That was more punishment than my 7 year old heart could bear. Maybe Mrs. Frank saw that. It’s now 20 years later and I wonder, if I came face to face with her and I recognized her and she recognized me, would she remember the lie?
This experience must have been part of my character formation if I can still remember it so vividly. To this day I hate lies. I hate when I find out I’ve been lied to, but I also hate when I realize I have been dishonest or not quite truthful. Part of a successful human existence is learning the importance of striving for honesty in all relationships–and learning to walk away from dishonest people. Lies are opposite of love. They are selfish and manipulative. Avoid them at all costs, both in yourself and in others.