When I was a child, my father, who was Head of Structures for Sikorsky Aircraft, used to take some interesting business trips. When he would return, he always brought me trinkets, usually little gadgets from the vendors during conferences, and he would tell us all about his experiences. I would ply him with questions, especially about the city he visited, and he was delighted I took such an interest in his work.
Little did he know that Monday morning at school I would tell my classmates about the fabulous trip I took with my daddy. The other children thought I was so lucky to have seen the Gateway Arch in St. Louis or heard the hot Dixieland jazz at Preservation Hall in New Orleans. They were awed by my telling of my visit to Yucca Flats, Nevada, where I witnessed a nuclear test during Operation Plumbbob. Since my audience was just dumb little kids like me, they never questioned my veracity and the implausibility of my doing so much and going so far away in a weekend. I gave such convincing details, had physical evidence in the form of souvenirs, and could answer every question posed to me.
Unfortunately, it didn’t occur to me that my classmates were so impressed, they shared my adventures with the teacher. It’s one thing to lie to other kids, but it gets scary if that lie is passed on to a grown-up. When my teacher asked me about my excursions, I felt I had no choice but to perpetuate the lie. She’d give me a skeptical look, but she never came out and said I must be fibbing.
Fast forward to the end of the school year when the teacher decided to have an Open House to show off our work to our parents. Terrified that I would be found out, I told my parents that the Open House was no big deal; they really didn’t need to take time out of their busy schedules to come. They insisted that it was no trouble; I was worth it.
By the time of my parents’ visit to school, my anxiety level was so high, I thought I was going to be physically ill. In fact, I prayed I would be physically ill so we didn’t have to go, promising God I would never tell another lie. Every nerve was on edge all during the Open House. When it was nearly over and no one had given me up yet, I thought I was in the clear. Then the teacher came over to my parents and said to my father, “Susan certainly has taken some very interesting trips with you,” and proceeded to name a few. My dad looked down at me, saw the mortification growing in my eyes, and said to my teacher, “She certainly is a good little traveler.”
On the way home, I was silent in the car, waiting for the reprimand. With a big grin, my dad, looking back at me in the rear view mirror, simply said, “Never lie unless you have a perfect memory.” My father was not one for lecturing. He felt life taught us the lesson well enough. And he was right. Never again did I want to feel that terrible anxiety of having to keep up those lies or feel the fear of being discovered.
As I watched the Republican debates last night, it was quite entertaining to hear the candidates claim they had the best record on job creation and, if elected, would get America back to work on the first day in office. During the coming months, they will make promises all over the place. The words of my father come back to me, “Don’t lie unless you have a perfect memory.” We’re not dumb little kids anymore.