I was standing in the check-out line at the Woolco Store, right down the street from where we lived in Casper, Wyoming, when I felt a tug on my jacket. I looked down at this really cute little boy who obviously was troubled by something.
“What is it, honey? Is something wrong?”
He looked down at his feet. I thought he had become shy and was reconsidering telling me what was bothering him, when he looked up and said, “How old do you have to be before you know what’s going on?”
“Why would you ask?” I stammered. “What do you think is going on?”
“Never mind,” he said. “I have to go to the bathroom.”
I know I didn’t give him a very good answer, but that was back before people deeply analyzed the thoughts of children. I’ve thought about it many times since, and to be honest, if a child asked me that same question today, I would still be stuck for an answer.
The little boy was mine. I had to give up my place in line to take him to the bathroom. I was a caring mother, but I never looked too deep into my kid’s psyche. In all fairness, I was only twenty years old when I had him, and I realized early on that I could easily be outsmarted by children of almost any age.
The other problem was I had a guilty conscience and really hoped he hadn’t caught on to what I was doing. I was at Woolco to buy a birthday card. I already had the gift. It was a nice, pinkish colored, bottle of Ambush. I can’t remember if it was cologne or perfume or even who gave it to me. I just hoped it wasn’t the girl from work whose birthday gift I had forgotten to buy. Back then we didn’t have an acceptable name for what I was doing… like re-gifting. My little boy tugging at my coat would have called it, lying.
I was really late, and I was taking the smart little thing, who was wondering how old you have to be before you know what’s going on, to the party with me. Time for a foxhole prayer. Please don’t let him rat me out. How embarrassing would that be.
Fortunately, he had gone on to other things his little mind questioned like, “Mommy, why is the goldfish so much smaller today than it was yesterday?”
“Remember? He was sick. He must have lost weight.” I tried to think… Did I bury the (now dead) “other” fish deep enough in the garbage?
“You have to take us swimming because you promised! You said you should never break a promise.” I reminded my son, who now has two kids of his own, that he had to keep his promises to his boys, because he made me take him swimming that day.
“I remember,” he said. “The pool was closed by the time we got there and I threw a fit all the way home. “Besides,” he added, “I break promises to my kids all the time. They understand that sometimes the stars just don’t line up and I can’t make it happen. It takes them about two seconds to get over it.”
The above picture was taken when he was a little older. He got to travel by himself to visit Grandma Retta and Grandpa Gus in California.
I have several, better pictures of those times, but they’re all cataloged by date, person, event, and place. I didn’t have time to alphabetize them, so it would have taken me too long to find them.
“Don’t lie, Mom. They’re thrown into large plastic crates, with people whose names you don’t even know!”
This was taken right before I told him what really happened to the goldfish.