by Laura Stevens
So this morning something happened that has me pondering the truth. What is the truth? Can the truth be an abstraction or is it just a hard line, with no gray areas? Can something be true at one time, but later turn out to be false? Or, true to the best of your knowledge?
My mother once told me at a very young age that I was honest â€˜to a fault.’ I didn’t understand. She always expected us to tell the truth, so how could you be honest to a fault? The way she explained it to me, it meant volunteering information that was not asked for and may be unwelcome. So I had to learn to count to five before saying something and give myself a chance to think before speaking which I believe I have mastered after forty-something years.
I learned how to tell white lies, you knowâ€¦ the ones so you don’t hurt feelings. Say one of your good friends, obviously excited about the new outfit she purchased, asks if you like it and you say “Yes.” Meanwhile you are thinking, “I like it, just not on you.” Or your husband or brother mentions his hair is starting to thin in the front and you say, “â€¦just a little” when it’s really moving faster than a receding tsunami wave.
So here comes the back-storyâ€¦
When I was seven or so, I had a parakeet that was occasionally allowed out of its cage. It disappeared one day and my mother told me the window had been left open and it had accidentally escaped, when in fact she didn’t know what had happened to it. When she discovered feathers under my sisters bed a week later and realized the cat ATE my bird, she didn’t tell me because I had finally come to terms that Blue was happy and freeâ€¦in central Washington stateâ€¦in the winter. Hey, I was seven. Anyway, when I found out the truth years later, I was really angry with my mother for lying to me and decided I would never lie to my children.
Last year for the fifth grade science fair, my daughter made a habitat for a Bombina-Bombina, a fire-bellied toad. She named it Sam. I’m sure you can see where I’m going with this. In spite of the need to feed him live meal worms and crickets, I became almost as attached to Sam as she did, so when I didn’t shut the catch on the door and Sam escaped she was furious with me and I felt terrible. We were both in tears as we searched the house, but Sam’s little body was never found and when one of our dogs threw up the next morning we assumed that the dog had eaten Sam and as traumatic as it was, at least it was a quick death.
Karma is a strange and wondrous thingâ€¦and really annoying.
I was sweeping under furniture in my studio this morning and found a strange, hard little object. It was Sam. How he made it through four rooms is beyond me. Six months has passed since his escape and now I am faced with the same dilemma my mother undoubtedly struggled with. The sad fact that Sam’s death was not the quick one that we assumed, puts me in a quandaryâ€¦ do I rip open a wound that has seemingly healed and tell her the truth of his demise? Do I avoid â€˜volunteering information that was not asked for and may be unwelcome?’ Not to mention the fact that she’s likely to be mad at me all over again?
I guess I have to tell her the truthâ€¦and call my mom and apologize.