I’m sure you’ve read this story. Like a lot of the trends in the world I tend to be one of the last to catch up. So when I saw the picture of the black lab sleeping on a sofa with a heart felt story attached, I read it.
I’m a sucker like that.
I read the entire post*. I teared up at the end. It was a lovely story, I had to share this. I clicked “Share” when I realized I should check my facts first.
One google search and I found out this wasn’t a true story at all.
At first I was mad. Mad at Deb Green, whoever the hell that is, for posting a picture that probably wasn’t even the dog in question. I was furious at the 460 other people who shared this on Facebook without even looking to see if it was real.
Then I asked myself, “Does it matter?”
How often have I written about my life and taken wide liberties with the facts? I use the tagline “Based on a true story” because I need people to understand that I WRITE. I’m not always factually recounting information in a “what I did today” fashion. Most often I use real stories from real experiences with real emotions attached. Sometimes, though, I take a bit of leeway with the timeline, with the specifics. Maybe that story didn’t happen yesterday, maybe it was last year and I just remembered to write about it. Maybe I write in a way I want to remember, not in the way I actually experienced it. This is difficult for those in my life to reconcile. Often the people closest to me can not read my blog because it is too painful to read how much I enjoyed myself in Germany when I would call crying at least once a week.
But I do not want to remember how I cried in Germany, and I do not want to dwell on the things that I can not bear to make public. When I write my famous book** about my white bread life, I will open up to the reader and pour myself as an exposed vessel. Here, in the ever-changing dynamic life of a blog, whose comments are emailed directly to my phone giving me immediate feedback on exactly what the anonymous reader thinks, I protect myself behind a veil of stories. Of author liberties. Of the written word.
I thought of this as I removed my shared post of “Reggie the Lab” from my Facebook wall. I didn’t want to look like an idiot duped in to a story that circulated the email chain 3 years ago. I didn’t want to make other people cry over a false, although lovely, tale of service and love. But I also didn’t want to judge the person for having shared such a story or myself for crying at it: after all, it was a lovely story.
So what if we find out life isn’t exactly as we think we experience it? Isn’t the fact that we experience it at all sort of the point?
*You can read the entire letter about “reggie” here.
** Yea right. Famous book. PSHAW. No, seriously, I’m writing about my white bread life in the hopes of having it published for sleep study patients. Sometime to fall asleep to, Amen.
My young son, mentioned previously, reminded me last night of another story I keep forgetting to tell you.
He reminded me, as I lay him down in his twin bed, tucked him in, sang him a song, and promised to come back after reading to his sister, about this time I did not come back to check on him. In fact, he reminded me, I left him alone in the house for a very long time; a very long time while I was at the bus top. Did I remember that? he asked. Yes, I replied, I did.
My daughter was in first grade, last year, and I had my tiny three year old son at home with me. He fell asleep in my bed during nap time, one of my favorite memories of our times at home in the afternoons. He slept so well I did not want to wake him at 3:15pm when the bus normally comes around the turn to drop off my daughter.
We were new at this routine. I was working at home, my daughter was in a new school (elementary!) and my son was still young enough to need naps and home time and not preschool every day.
We were also new enough to the neighborhood that nobody really knew us yet.
We live on a fairly steep hill without a sidewalk, too steep for my liking to send my oldest born to or from the bus stop a quarter mile away on her own. I watched the clock near the time of her arrival and panicked as my tiny son remained still, breathing heavily, slightly sweaty in bed. I could not arouse him, aren’t we taught that? The creed of every parent? DO NOT WAKE THE CHILD. I did not dare.
But as the bus came closer, I knew I had a decision to make: Leave the youngest to meet the older one at the bus stop? Or wait at the top of our hill here, at my driveway, for her to come to me?
I stood at the driveway at 3:10. I watched. I waited. My young son slept.
Near 3:30 I begane to panic. I walked to the bus stop to look for the other children wondering if I’d miss the bus’s arrival. I waited and waited, glancing up to the house every few minutes and back around the corner for signs of the other children. I saw nothing.
Fifteen more minutes drew on. The bus is sometimes late but never, surely, THIS late. I ran up the hill toward my house in fear. Did I miss the bus? How long had my tiny young son been sleeping alone? Had my daughter tried to walk up before I was out there, surely five minutes or more before I needed to be, and been picked up by a stranger?
It was a no win situation and lose I did. My tiny son sat, bawling, at the bottom of the stairs. “I did not find you!” he wailed when I rushed back in the house. “Oh, buddy, oh buddy, you were asleep. I went to pick up your sister. Oh I was right here for so long, here, at the bottom of the driveway. I was here, waiting for your sister, letting you sleep, safe in our house. Oh, buddy.” He sobbed and explained his fears. “You were gone! I looked every where!” No, I was here, I was here. I was thinking of you, I was watching the house, I was waiting for your sister, I was….
It did not matter. To my son I had abandoned him. I grabbed him, hugged him, and decided one thing must have happened: My daughter walked to her friend’s house without telling me.
After comforting my son, crying alongside him, and reassuring him I would never ever truly leave him, we got in the car and went the three-quarter mile to our friend’s house where I was hoping my daughter would be. My heart raced at the thought of anything else as my traumatized son sat in his car seat kicking happily at the back seat sucking on a sippy cup of milk.
She was there, I found out, at the table, eating a snack and playing. I was furious and relieved. I was heart broken and happy. I could not believe an afternoon of “being with the children” could have turned out so wrong. I gathered her up, telling her to always come home, I will be here, if I do not say otherwise. That I had waited at our driveway for twenty minutes and the bus stop for fifteen. “Oh,” she shrugged, “we were early.”
That day I struggled as a working mom who wanted to be with her children that afternoon. I wanted my son to sleep. I wanted my daughter to be safe on the road to our house. I wanted to be here for them both and instead I failed. My son, to this day apparently, reminds me of this trauma and I know, for a fact, the other mothers in our neighborhood see this as a failure of parenting. How could I not have been on time to meet my daughter? What is it that I could possibly do that was more important than being there for her at the bus stop?
I think of this as my son, a year and a half later, reminds me how I left him. This, I think, this is why I did not get to the bus earlier. This is why I look like a bad mother: because I had a tiny boy sleeping in my bed and I hoped beyond hope to not have to leave him alone. This, I think, is the conversation I hoped to avoid. “No, buddy” I reassure, “I will always come back for you. I promise.”
And I always have.
“I’m mad at Miss Teacher. She always makes me come in from the rain last.”
I look at my young son. He turns five in a month. F-I-V-E. He is timeless like my sister, always thousands of years younger than reality. He has ideas now. He has opinions. He is wrong a lot.
“I don’t think that sounds right, Buddy.” I look at him in the rear view mirror. “No! It is! I was upset because my best friend gets to come in and shut the door and I have to stand out in the rain. Miss Teacher said that I have to be last and I have to stand in the rain before I come in.”
Obviously I know this is not right. It can’t be. This same teacher he is speaking of is the one who soothes my young son when I don’t meet his unrealistic expectations of picking him up every day right after lunch. She’s the one who tells him I am at work, I still love him, but I will come as soon as I possibly can. She’s been in our lives for five years now: two children through preschool. She knows us. We know her.
She’d never make my son stand in the rain last.
But the story is repeated over and over. “NO! She SAID I had to stand in the rain while everyone else came in! She lets us all come in at the same time on a sunny day. But not when it’s raining!”
Suddenly I remember my boss from a few jobs back: it’s been twelve years now. TWELVE YEARS. I hardly believe it. His words still ring in my ears at times, “Perception is reality!” he used to tell us.
He was speaking as a services manager. If the client perceives a problem as urgent, their reality is such that it is urgent regardless of what we know is fact. As technical minded people, we tend to look at problems as a flow chart: There’s no judgement, there’s no feeling. It is a flow chart of yes and no: Does your computer turn on? Are all the cables plugged in? Can you ping google? These are things people don’t think of. Instead, people think in terms of their own reality: “MY PAPER IS DUE AT 1:00 AND MY MACHINE IS BROKE.”
It’s not really reality, but it is their perception of reality and so, in essence, it is reality.
I reflect on this as my young son tells me of his reality. It’s so far from actual reality. It’s not anywhere near truth. It’s so far from factual. But to him, it is his life.
Children are so great at teaching us a million things: They teach us to wash our hands because they come from a daycare/preschool of people coughing. They teach us to appreciate our lives because change happens before we can even quantify it. They teach us to laugh because we forget too often how funny farting is.
But children are really terrible at one thing: Seeing the world the way an adult sees it. And maybe that’s not even a problem. Maybe the real trouble is that we, adults, can’t see the world more like a child can. But if some bitch was telling me to stand in the rain while everyone else went inside I’m sure I wouldn’t just say, in a calm voice later, “I’m mad at Miss Teacher.”
Maybe their world isn’t so bad after all.
Rule #1: Don’t blog about work.
Rule #2: It’s totally normal to delete a post and replace it with beer and sausages.
Rule #3: LOOK! SAUSAGES!!!
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