WARNING! This post has nothing to do with beer.
My parents are divorced. They have been since I was very young, maybe 3 or 4 years old. I lived with my Mom most of the time and was an every other weekend warrior with my Dad. As a consequence of my broken home upbringing, I spent what felt like 50% of my toddler years either in a car or waiting to get in a car. This kind of transient lifestyle affords a youngster like myself plenty of opportunities for deep thought - a real chance to ponder the world’s tough questions and figure stuff out. Or you could fall asleep 5 minutes into every car ride and catch up on some z’s.
Unfortunately, I never was much of a thinker growing up, I was more into experiences:
“What will happen if I leave this pudding pop on the table? It’s only a vanilla one, let’s set it down and see what happens.”
“What will happen if I poop while I’m in the tub? The toilet is filled with water, the tub is filled with water, so this seems like the second best place to do it.”
“Is broken glass sharp? This is followed by the question - why does the juice coming out of my hand not taste like juice?
“Are these Christmas decorations or futuristic space apples? I’m going to bite into one and find out.”
“I wonder what it feels like to sit on my Star Trek bean bag chair naked?”
(It felt perfect, by the way.)
One day, in the car, going to Dad’s house, I had a thought. Really, it may have been my first act of imagination. And it set off a chain reaction of other thoughts: Okay, so if I tell Dad this, then he will be happy, and then I will probably get some cool stuff, including a maybe a dinner at the Seafood Shanty and the opportunity to play “I Spy” followed by picking a toy out of the wishing well in the lobby and probably Dad will be so happy he will let me pick two even though the sign says “only pick one” which I never understood because it was like bottomlessly filled with toys…
And the thoughts just rolled on and on like the boulders coming at me in the third level of my Jungle Hunt video game. Incidentally, this particular day represents Day 1 of my neurosis. Welcome to the show.
As difficult as it was, I broke my deep gaze with myself in the passenger side mirror and decided to share my thoughts with Dad:
“So, I skipped a grade this week.”
This was, and still is, a complete and total fabrication. My first, in fact. I was in first grade at the time. Now, I can’t take credit for birthing that idea on my own - that week someone in my class did skip a grade, it just wasn’t me.
In my mind, it should have been me and I was a bit hurt that it wasn’t. Looking back, I believe it was more of a social promotion - the girl was a giant and her boobies were starting to happen. She was back in like 3 weeks.
“Yup, I’m in second grade now,” I said.
Dad’s eyeballs exploded with joy. And I don’t remember it exactly but I believe we immediately materialized at Toys R Us. The plan was working perfectly.
I was allowed to pick out one thing and as I scoured the aisles I came across what appeared to be the Holy Grail of toys: a hobby model that when put together was actually a transformer - transforming from a jet to a robot. This may sound kind of lame, but in the context of a 6 year old Transformer junkie (you’re a truck, you’re a robot, now you’re a truck again - this is so cool I‘m going to lose my fucking mind!) that enjoyed putting models together it was like getting two toys in one. Actually, since a transformer technically was already two toys in one, this was like three toys in one. In my mind, I was beating the system.
When I say that I enjoyed putting models together, understand that at this stage in life, besides transforming things from a robot into something else, building models was a big part of what me and my Dad did on the weekends. We had model cars, model boats, model planes, and now a model transformer. It was going to be a good weekend.
My other hobbies with Dad included playing backgammon and walks in the woods. Turns out a childhood filled with building models, playing backgammon, and nature walks leads to a very smart but socially inept adult. I would never have predicted that in a million years.
Imagine if I went to an online dating site, posing as a women of course, and listed “building models, playing backgammon, and walks in the woods” as my interests. Think of all the potential serial killers I would attract. I’d be the Jodie Foster of online dating. I should work in law enforcement.
Anyway, the karmic kick in the teeth was that the toy sucked. Maybe we went to the Seafood Shanty, maybe we didn’t - I don’t remember - that’s how disappointing the toy was. But good god, was Dad proud. It was quite the fantasy world I had created - all of a sudden his boy was a prodigy - something he must have suspected all along because he was pretty easily convinced . What father doesn’t want their son to be the next Stephen Hawking minus the physically crippling disease? Well, that was the masterpiece I painted for him, with broad brushstrokes of bullshit all weekend.
But like all things, weekends must come to an end. And like a dumb ass, I had not even begun to consider the repercussions I was about to face as I walked into Mom’s house with Dad. A kid that actually deserved to skip a grade would have seen the snake pit I was about to fall into from a mile away. But I was new to the art of the lie and I was still walking around like a king, head in the clouds, looking for my next castle in the sky.
Then, like a truck load of feces being dumped into the convertible that was my childhood, it all came crashing down around me:
“How about our boy!” Dad said.
There it was. I was half way to my room with my green suitcase when I heard it and instantly it was blood curdlingly obvious that not only did my scheme have a gigantic hole, but that the hole was just ripped open like a stubborn bag of potato chips. Potato chips were every where. How could I be so stupid.
“What about our boy?” Mom said, with a tone that suggested she knew that her suspicions about my moral compass were about to be confirmed.
“Skipping a grade!” Dad replied.
I sat in my room and chewed off my fingers.
“No, he didn’t,” she said
“Are you sure? He said…”
“I think I would have been told by the school if our boy had skipped a grade.”
She had a good point.
Amazingly, I don’t remember much punishment. Mom was probably pleased I pulled one over on Dad and Dad was probably still proud as all heck - no longer proud of my book smarts, but proud of my street smarts. You have to admit - for a first lie, it was a good one.