A group I belong to selected this writing prompt for the month of June: “Things I Know to Be True.” You’d think at my advanced age, I could rattle off a few, but I am terrified to commit any of my “truths” to paper because, beets. Yes, beets.
Until about ten years ago, I “knew” that I hated beets. I’d never actually tasted a beet, mind you, but in forty-some years of living I’d never had occasion to revisit my childhood belief that beets were slices of vampire heart. At least not until I was held captive at a three-day conference where the lunches were meager and the dinner entrees took forever to be served. By the final evening, with only a salad plate of Vlad the Impaler’s heart standing between me and starvation, I broke down and took a bite. My so-called truth dissolved into deliciousness right then and there. It turns out I really like beets.
Now, I might be inclined to dismiss the beets issue as an amusing holdover from childhood that managed to bypass adult re-evaluation if it were an isolated incident, but it’s not. Check out these two stunning examples of adult asleep-at-the-wheel syndrome, from which I apparently suffer.
1. I believed those were real monkeys in The Wizard of Oz.
Okay, you probably did too…when you were eight. I was in my early thirties before the light bulb went on for me. I first saw The Wizard of Oz when I was in first grade and even though on the whole I loved it, I never watched it again for the rest of my childhood because the Wicked Witch’s monkey henchmen had so traumatized me. More than two decades passed before I re-examined the monkeys through the lens of adulthood when I bought the VHS tape for my daughter’s eighth birthday. As I was wrapping it, I actually said to my husband, “Looking back now, I’m amazed those monkeys could be trained to do all those things.” My husband laughed, thinking that I was being facetious, and only at that very moment did I realize that, of course, the monkeys were not monkeys at all, but people in costumes. (And some darn convincing pre-Planet of the Apes make up, in my opinion.)
2. I believed a blade of grass could break through concrete in its quest to find sunlight.
One day when I was a little girl, I was standing outside with my father as he stooped down to examine a crack in the sidewalk. A slender sprig of grass had sprouted right in the middle of the crack. Pulling it out, he smiled up at me and said, “Can you believe a little blade of grass broke this hard concrete?” Not only did I believe it then, I continued to believe it until last summer. In an instance of delayed déjà vu, my husband stooped down to examine a crack in our driveway. As he pulled up the few shoots of grass growing there, I repeated the words my father had spoken to me so many years before. Different husband this time, but the same response—he laughed, thinking I was joking. Half a second later, it dawned on me that, of course, the crack preceded the grass, not vice versa. (Grass, however determined, does not actually possess superhero strength.)
I’m shaking my head right along with you, wondering how I could have thought such absurd things for so long. But, the key point here is that I hadn’t actively thought them all that time. My initial (erroneous) beliefs were formed in childhood and then lay dormant in the deep recesses of my mind. They flew under the radar of conscious thought for years, just waiting for an opportunity to spring forth and publicly humiliate me. So you can see why I’m reluctant to proclaim with any real conviction the “things I know to be true.” And maybe that’s not such a bad thing. Maybe the only thing I really know to be true is that we need to re-examine our long-held and deep, dark “truths” from time to time to see if they hold up when exposed to the light. Especially ones like, “All people from ______ are ______.” Or “If you ______, you are a ______ person.” Or how about “My child would never ______.”
I hope I don’t have any half-baked notions of the hurtful variety tucked away in some mental closet, but I plan to remain vigilant about rooting them out just in case. In the meantime, I will leave you with this one truth that experience has unfortunately shown me is 100% valid: Stretch marks are forever. And, bonus truth here, so is cellulite.
I have to run now because I’m expecting a couple flying monkeys for lunch and I haven’t finished making the beet salad yet!