It’s Back-To-School time and I am reminded of my own elementary school experiences:
I am the new kid at school. Again. After lunch at this new school, we third graders have to sit on benches under the basketball nets until the older kids finish eating and we can all go out for recess.
I sit next to Joanie who has a cool Roy Rogers lunchbox. How can I make myself interesting so that she’ll want to play with me?
“My whole family used to work in the circus,” I tell her. “My cousins flew on the flying trapeze.”
She glances my way.
“And my aunt danced with a bear,” I add.
That seems to get her attention. And the attention of a few other kids sitting nearby.
“Really?” asks a wispy-haired girl in front of us. I think her name is Rene. The others lean in.
“We had a pet baby elephant,” I continue. “She was an orphan so I had to feed her from a bottle. I named her Mimi.”
Now the boys behind us are listening, too.
“Right. You had a pet elephant,” jeers a boy named John who has been sent to the principal’s office twice in the three days I’ve been at this school.
But the other kids are starting to doubt me, too. I can see it in their faces. I need to think quickly.
“And then I woke up,” I say.
“You were dreaming all that?” asks Joanie.
She doesn’t play with me at recess.
I was a liar liar in my early years. Pants. On. Fire. When my mom thought I had lied, she made me stick out my tongue to prove it had not turned black. Of course, I would not open my mouth for fear of being caught. I did not realize Mom was lying in this matter of the black tongue. Such innocence. Such irony.
I was ashamed of the whoppers I told when I was a little kid until I realized maybe lie ability was not a complete liability – but maybe even good practice for a life in fiction writing. (In my early years as a picture book maker, I even explored the idea of my family as the circus in a board book dummy, the sketches of which decorate this blogpost.)
To craft a believable story, we are called upon to create a believable lie. We must invent it all: dialogue that rings true, plausible events, realistic challenges for our characters’ lives. Like good liars, we freely mix in actual factual details from the real world to lend credence. We fabricate to reveal a bigger Truth.
But back to those black-tongued childhood days. I wonder how many of you writers out there were also child liars? Let us know in the comments — and even If you weren’t, you can always make something up.
Contributed by Laura Kvasnosky, no lie.
I told everyone at the new school that I owned a horse. As we lived in the inner city this wasn’t very plausible. Later in life I learned about supportive back story.
hilarious — ah yes, supportive back story…
Your “abilities” to craft great stories and make me laugh amaze me every day. And that’s no lie!
I would have played with you at recess–just for the good stories! I don’t remember telling whoppers, but I did make up a ton of stories to tell my faithful listener, my younger sister.
thanks bonny — i, too, made up stories for my stuffed kitty to tell my younger sibs. Kitty had a very squeaky voice. then he went missing. i looked and looked but never found him. i suspect my mom wanted to put an end to early morning squeaky voices.
So endearing, to want to make friends that sorely. I never changed schools, but in 3rd grade I told everyone I had a horse after another girl said she did. Dream on. Had I only known that my real story was so much more unbelievable… I was one of 5 children, the first, in a string of children who were all removed from our first family one by one, and adopted into different stranger families. We finally found each other decades later. But it still is hard for me to understand what a wild early life that was.
what an amazing story — i hope you are writing it because i would love to read it.
I realized in kindergarten that summer birthdays were not going to be celebrated in class, so I lied and told my teacher that it was going to be my birthday the next day. She generously had the class sing Happy Birthday to me, despite the fact she must have known I was lying. The class made me an oversize birthday card signed by everyone, and I rather stupidly took it home & had to explain what I’d done. Horrible guilt, nerves rocked, trembles, sweat, etc. Not worth it! The only lying to my parents was when I played hooky a couple of times in high school and hitchhiked with two friends to Santa Cruz. Hard to believe now that I would have done it. So dangerous and dumb. Gad. I’m not sure lying worked the same way on me as it did on you, Laura!
The combination of your lie and the thoughtful teacher and the having to admit it all to your folks is sweet and funny. Lies viewed in retrospect are often funny, don’t you think? Happy birthday, Julie! Wish I could have been there for it this summer.
OMG, how did I not know that you (and Julie too!) belong to the great sisterhood of liars who became writers? I too told whoppers when I was a kid. Such a thrill to be able to round a story to its finish and have everyone look at you bug-eyed! Such triumph! And alas, such a hard landing when the rug of the lie is pulled out from under your feet. So grateful to have found fiction writing where effective lying earns praise.
On the edge of my seat reading this… how will it end? Great story and topic, Laura, and I love your drawings, so free and simple. I don’t remember deliberately lying to make friends or get attention since I was deathly shy, but I carried a belief with me for years and probably told my best friend in kindergarten, that my mom and dad were robbers and our real dad was named Jimmy had tried to come rescue us once. The springboard for this was, 1.) I was a silent, scared and depressed child who feared my father (it’s ok, I’ve had plenty of therapy), and 2.) Early one morning my parents were studying the backdoor. The door had been “jimmied” from a failed robbery attempt.
gotta love how the jimmied lock became your real dad Jimmy. in a way, that’s how kids try to make sense of the information they have that doesn’t quite figure.
It sure is.