Slice of Life Story Challenge March 1 -Smoke, Mirrors and Memoirs

I am currently reading ‘When I Was Your Age- Original Stories About Growing Up.’ It features memoir pieces contributed by 20 prominent American writers about. The stories are indeed a reminder that the experiences one has during childhood are frequently more vivid and enduring. In childhood, it often seems, you are either very happy or very sad, but rarely ambivalent. Emotions are strongly represented in these recollections of youth. Memories of these of these events remain with us forever. Time and distance though frequently colours the accuracy of the recollection. The story becomes our particular version of the truth.  This in part is due to the heightened emotional state evident in childhood.

Well, these stories stirred me into action. -A memoir slice, for the first day of this March writing challenge! I have gone back to when I was 9 years old. A memory that refuses to fade has resurfaced courtesy of my current readings.  I have been visited today by a memory from a time when I made a big mistake. A mistake, I cannot outlive…

With a group of friends I set out one Saturday morning on my bike to explore the local neighbourhood. In the course of the morning’s adventures someone produced a packet of cigarettes and so ignited my tale of infamy. Because we were only 9 years old, and cigarette smoking was a forbidden act for children, we immediately sought the dark cover of the Elster Creek stormwater drain that ran between  my suburb, East Bentleigh and Carnegie, a neighbouring suburb. The drain was huge. You could actually ride your bike through it when water levels were low. We conducted our nefarious puffing activities out of sight, in the shadowy underground of the tunnel. We were aware of doing shameful things.

 I returned home around lunch time carrying my wicked secret. My father greeted me that afternoon and almost immediately looked at me with suspicion. Without hesitation he asked, ‘Have you been smoking? -A fairly simple, straightforward question. To which I answered without hesitation, ‘No.’
-A big fat lie to compound my shameful behaviour.   
My father followed up with ‘Well, what happened to your eyebrows? They’re all singed and burnt’
 ‘I don’t know,’ was my inadequate response. 
He smiled at me in that all knowing way parents do. ‘Are you sure you haven’t been smoking?  
This time I hesitated before I offered the worst possible answer.  ‘I wasn’t smoking Dad. I was only lighting them for everyone.’
Oh what a pathetic lie! But it was too late to take it back and I couldn’t ask for another try...

My Dad then gave me some stern words of advice on the dangers of smoking. A terrible addiction, he called it. I felt worse about the dumb lies I had told him. For me, that was a far bigger embarrassment than the smoking. The words came out so easily and once out, could never be taken back. Not much to be proud of, I thought.

I paid for those lies well into my adult years. My father would often recall those terrible words whenever he suspected that someone was not being exactly honest with the truth. He would recite the line ‘I wasn’t smoking Dad, I was only lighting them for everyone.’


 It often arose when I was trying to explain something to his grandchildren and I would immediately recall how dishonesty brings you undone. Ironically, my father was a smoker for most of his adult life. I never took it up. I hate it, if you must know. They say we learn most from our biggest mistakes. The regret I feel for lying to my Dad has remained with me all these years. 

Comments

  1. Hello, my March writing friend.
    It is so good to be back hanging with you.
    That's no lie!
    :)
    Your story certainly reverberated with me, and now has me wondering about my own kids, and the lies we tell and the guilt we feel, and how that is part of growing up, I suppose. Strange to think that, though, particularly from a parental view (where all we want is the truth, even if we can't handle the truth)
    Happy writing
    Kevin

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    1. Kevin the feeling is mutual. Great to be back in the zone with you and our fellow writers. The whole topic of guilt and how we handle it is future writing territory perhaps?

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  2. I am happy to be reading your writing again! I think my lies have stuck with me too. You have nudged me to remembering them. I loved yours.

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    1. Thank you indeed for your kind remarks. As writers, we nudge each other regularly. Nudging is good....

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  3. Yay! I am so glad to be able to read your slices every day for a month! And, you have inspired a couple potential posts for me, as I remember a couple of lies that haunt me still. I may have a couple from my parenting life, as well. Thank you, Alan, and I am SO glad you are at the slicing party.

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    1. Melanie, I am equally pleased to be joining you in this annual quest. I look forward to sharing across the month.

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  4. I love your writing and am so happy to see your stories again, Alan. I am on retreat this weekend, remembering stories. Your story took me back to my own. Thanks for the connection.

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    1. Hi Deborah, great to hear from you. I hope the retreat provides a rich source of ideas, upon which future writing can be launched.

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  5. Thank you for sharing this memory! I often share the time I lied to my parents when I speak to my students about the importance of telling the truth. My lie involved dropping a friend off after a basketball game and hearing a loud bang as I tried to back my parents' big silver Buick station wagon out of her narrow street with cars parked curbside. I must have dented the driver's door. My mom later wondered if someone had side swiped her at the grocery store. I didn't say anything. I hated the thought of losing my parents' trust--but also of getting away with it.

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    1. These experiences haunt us, don't they? Cars are often a source for our guilt. You are beginning to purge your guilt already with these words. Hmmm...

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  6. I love this collection of stories, especially for teaching writing. And there's nothing like the power of a good story to dredge up some of our own. Have you shared it with your students?

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    1. Yes Judy, I have shared this story with students. They seem to appreciate the honesty and it humanises one. Imperfection exposed and lessons learnt are rich ground for increasing knowledge of self. Like you, I love the memoir collection. It was recommended to me on line. I'm glad it came to my attention.

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  7. You are a great storyteller. Your carefully chosen words carry your ideas straight to the readers heart. I like reading different childhood memories.

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    1. Thank you Terje for your kind comments. All writers need feedback. Childhood memories are a rich vein for writers. I love delving into this area.

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  8. Everything will be okay" is my favorite story from that collection, Alan, it's the one we begin our memoir study with. Your memoir has that same haunted feeling - nicely done.

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    1. Thanks Tara, I'm grateful to that special collection of stories for inspiring me to think about my own experiences. I also make use of Ralph Fletcher's Marshfield Dreams when studying memoir.

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  9. I love that book, Alan, have used some of the parts with students, and enjoyed your story, too. We don't forget do we, ever? Well said, and for me will be remembered. Will be great to read your stories again this March.

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    1. Hi Linda! Great to reconnect with you in this annual quest. Equally, I look forward to reading your insightful writing. The book is an excellent resource for teaching memoir.

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  10. Thanks for an intro to a new book, and also a vividly told story. Of course, you made me remember.

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    1. Remembering is GOOD! Trust it leads to new and exciting writing prospects. Hope you find this book as helpful as I have found it.

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  11. There's a lot of irony in your story as well as good lessons learned. I look forward to reading more of your excellent writing this month.

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    1. Thank you once again for your kind and uplifting remarks. I hope I can live up your expectations as the month unfolds. Shall come visiting....

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  12. I need to get that book.It's the second time it's come up this week. Your memory brought to mind a shameful one of mine and like Kevin I caught myself wondering what sort of bad examples or guilts my son will carry with him. I love your voice, rich and full, I can hear the remorse, but even better how a lesson learned lightens the load. Happy slicing!

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    1. Two mentions -must be a book worth obtaining. Thank you also for your kind and considered feedback. Look forward to sharing the month of March in Slice World!

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  13. Alan,
    You had me right there. Listening to the Devil on my left shoulder not wanting to get caught. Your story brought back a recent experience for me. A youngster returned a library book with the spine ripped. She told me it was that way when she checked it out. I remember looking at her and saying shall we try that one again. Her look of agony told me all that I needed to know. ahh - Guilt all the stories that could be told.

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  14. I was searching the blogs for a long time and that is good to know that I have found such blogs here. Great working! Keep it up!

    nemesis mod clone

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  15. Guilt is very much a shared experience.

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