“That is the curse of lying, Sister. Once you place that crown of the liar upon your head, you can take it off again, but it leaves a stain for all time.”
― Terry Goodkind, Soul of the Fire
Retirement has given me time to think back to parts of my life sequestered away in different little nooks and crannies. The sound of falling leaves and the smell of bonfires burning in the distance transported me to a place in time I had not visited in a long time. In one quick sweep, I saw myself standing in front of my old house in Traer, shuffling my feet through a widening pile of leaves, waiting for my friends to come by so we could all walk together to our music teacher’s house for chorus practice.
Now, this memory is a very serious one–not one that I am very proud of and one that probably set the course of my life for years to come. First of all, we were not going to have chorus practice. It’d been canceled earlier in the day because our teacher, Mrs. Wilson, was sick. Some of my friends had decided to go out anyway. Not so easy for me since I had just told my Dad and his new wife, Irene, we did not have practice that night. No way they would let me go out when there was no real plan for the night. I mean, teens out roaming around at night in a small town….nope. No way. Nadda. Not going to happen.
Well, someone suggested after multiple phone calls back and forth, I just needed to tell them I was going to practice. Odds are that they weren’t really paying attention and won’t remember me telling them. It’d be an early night so it won’t be a big deal. Just come on–they’d be walking by in ten minutes.
They pleaded. They really, really, really wanted me to come along. I really, really, really wanted to go. For the first time in my life, I felt like I belonged. This was a very new and a very heady experience for me.
With all my inner voices screaming at me that this was NOT a smart move, I decided to act fast, grabbed my coat, and rushed out the front door, yelling, “Bye, Dad, I’m going to practice.”
As predicted, my Dad did not remember. What I could not have predicted and was about to discover, Irene never ever forgot anything.
I was with my friends and it was wonderful. We walked up and down the streets, imitating the line walk we had all seen on the new TV show, The Monkees. We pushed, shoved, and laughed. We told each other our scariest ghost stories and made plans for Halloween. The wind gusted harder as we walked. The once clear evening had become overcast and cold. One of the guys said his parents weren’t home, why not head over to his house and warm up.
Meanwhile, at my house, Irene was looking up Mrs. Wilson’s phone number as my Dad dialed. Within a matter of minutes, my great escape was about to become one of my biggest nightmares.
Even now, I don’t know how he knew where to find me. We were crowded in Bruce’s kitchen, checking out what was in the ‘frig, when the knock at the front door came. We all tried to be quiet, but the giggles persisted as someone went to see who was there. What I heard next put pure fear into my heart.
“Barb, it’s your Dad.”
I was pretty sure my Dad was not there to join our little impromptu party.
The silence was deafening as I walked out the door, across the porch, and down the steps to where my Dad stood.
He did not speak to me–just pointed the way home.
If you took the route my friends and I’d just taken, we weren’t far from home. It’s only been a few minutes earlier when we’d raced each other through backyards and down alleys. Dad was not directing me that way–he marched us home by way of the sidewalks. I was a full block ahead of him, hearing his every word. Those words were sparse, repeated over and over, ensuring I got his message.
I got it. Loud and clear.
“I am so disappointed in you. You are no longer the good example you once were for your sisters. Your sisters are embarrassed by you. I am disappointed in you.”
It was one of the lowest times of my life.
My nightmare was not over–it continued when I got to school the next day. Mrs. Wilson told us all about a phone call made to her house the night before. She did not mention my name–there was no need. She was not happy one of her students used her as a way to get out of the house. That was not alright with her. She was very disappointed in that student. It would not–could not–happen again or she would end our special choral group.
This was one of my biggest lessons about trust. In a matter of minutes, I learned trust is earned through hard work. It is lost easily with just one reckless decision.
Over the years, I’ve been haunted by questions. Would things have been different in how our very new family developed if I had made a different choice? Had I set a certain ball in motion that night, creating a momentum I did not understand or know how to stop?
I found a quote earlier that helped me as I wrote and shared this story today.
In my life, I’ve lived, I’ve loved, I’ve lost, I’ve missed, I’ve hurt, I’ve trusted, I’ve made mistakes, but most of all, I’ve learned.