The other day in the car, Stephanie turned to me with a very serious look on her face and asked, “Have you ever told a lie?”
That’s a loaded question, especially with her eleven year old sister in the back seat.
“Mmmm.” I needed to buy some time.
“Yeah. I’m sure I have.” The fact of the matter was I knew I had but I didn’t want to be that confident, like I’d done it that morning. Wanted it to seem like I couldn’t really pinpoint anything specific any time in the recent past.
I thought my guilty plea would end the conversation – I was wrong.
She acted like it was once. Sort of like when I got my appendix removed.
I honestly couldn’t think of a recent fib so I had to reach back to come up with something. The one that popped into my head was one I was sure they could relate to.
Well, you see, in high school I hated PE class. I hated changing clothes in front of the other guys, and I particularly hated the weeks we spent doing gymnastics. We were required to walk on the balance beam, and I could not. We had to jump the horse and my legs did not split in a horizontal fashion.
But what was even worse was climbing the rope in the gym. It was hanging from a rafter and we had to shimmy up the thing like Tarzan.
Joey Brenier could do it. Hank Downing could do it. Sam McNally could do it. I could not.
One February morning, I happened to walk by the gym early during first period. I’d been anticipating Rope Day for a few weeks, but I glanced in the gym and there was our 95 year old gym teacher, Miss Cherry, holding the bottom of the rope while the fellas were doing all they could to hoist themselves up the fibrous vine.
When I hit the gym third period, I skipped the locker room and headed straight to the bleachers. Miss Cherry was pacing the gym floor, waiting for her plebes.
“Tanner,” she always called us by our last names with her deep southern drawl, “why aren’t you dressed out?”
I couldn’t tell the truth – well Miss Cherry, I hate climbing the rope so I’m taking the day off. No. I instead I lied. Without flinching and without explanation, I reported: “I forgot my gym clothes. Just give me a zero for today.”
“Let’s go check your locker.”
I knew if I opened my locker it was likely that I hadn’t forgotten my PE clothes at all. It was quite likely they were on the top shelf, and I had simply overlooked them.
I don’t know why I didn’t just confess that I’d lied while we were still in the gym. I guess I’d hoped that perhaps a hoodlum had broken into my locker and stolen my t-shirt and shorts between my arrival at school that morning and third period. Unfortunately for me, that was not the case.
I opened the door.
“Just like I thought Tanner. Get dressed. We have a rope to climb.”
The girls enjoyed my story, and I explained that lying sometimes did not pay off. Then I asked them if they had ever lied.
Without missing a beat, Michelle lit up, “Well, I did tell you I loved you.”
Stephanie tossed her thoughts in, “Awwwkward.”
I hope they learn from my mistakes. But it is likely they’ll have to go through their own Miss Cherry debacle to truly learn their lesson.
If I had to do it again, I wish I hadn’t lied. I wish I would have just left the gym shorts at home that day.