I never quite understood my affinity toward kids and their quaint, multifaceted peculiarities, but I learned years ago that their thought processes and actions totally fascinated me. From the moment I asked our neighbor’s kid why he had to splash every puddle in front of him on our walk and he answered, “’Cuz it makes my feet feel crunchy and my socks fit better”, to the more recent Little Miss Grumpy cat’s comment of “Mommy, this lady’s smiling at me. Tell her to stop smilin’ at me”, I’ve always been enamored with little people.
Kids have an innocence and naiveté that quickly dissipates with age and sophistication, and it’s their total and blatant honesty that I’ve always admired and tried to emulate. The problem is that with age and sophistication, we’re supposed to develop a certain editorial edge in order to maintain relationships – familial, professional and friendly. The difficulty for me is that while I’m juggling all these half-truths and inaccurate stories, I’m cluttering my already garbage-filled, aging memory with rubbish and crap that with time and repetition begins to cement in my brain as the honest truth. And if I repeat the story enough times to enough people, I’ve got a totally jaded version of what really, actually happened – what really, actually is the truth. And therein lies the dilemma – the edge has inadvertently created a dishonesty of sorts.
Maybe it’s the New Yorker in me that likes directness and honesty. New Yorkers are blatantly truthful people – mostly. If you don’t want the truth, don’t ask a New Yorker. I remember a clueless reporter shoving a microphone into the face of an obviously distraught New Yorker on the day of 9/11 and asking him how he felt, and how the incredulously New Yorker looked back at the reporter and bluntly said, “How the f–k do you think I feel?”
Simple. Direct. Honest. No game playing. I knew exactly how the guy felt. He didn’t have to elaborate for me. His world was crushed. Life as we knew it was now history. In the blink of an eye, our lives were transformed, and this stupid reporter asked him how he felt?
I don’t even know how to respond to stupid people like that. Kids don’t, either. Try asking a stupid, illogical question of a kid and I bet’cha they answer with a blank stare and silence. Either that or they totally ignore the question and start talking about a completely unrelated subject. They have an innate genius to sniff-out stupidity.
Maybe my affinity toward child-like honesty was learned. Mom brought us up to tell the truth and always, always be honest in your dealings with people – both professionally and personally. Doing this honors them and you and speaks volumes for your sense of integrity.
One of my former classmates from Estee Middle School ran into my mom a few years ago and asked about my well-being and then told her a story about me that made her proud to be my mom. Tommy told her how he tried to help me pass a test in our 9th grade Asian History class and how I refused to take his help because it was cheating, and I would not cheat. I was studying my butt off and trying like hell to pass the class, but was failing miserably. Allowing me to peek over his shoulder and copy the answers from his test, though, was not cool, despite the fact that I was well-aware that many in our 9th grade Honor’s History class were cheating at the time. It was dishonest, plain and simple, and I was not going to do the same.
Tommy was a young man of morals and principals, as well. He had a terrible sense of fashion – liked to wear plaids with stripes – and he wasn’t exactly Mr. Popularity among the Freshman class, but he knew that I was trying hard to succeed and keenly aware of the fact that a lot of our classmates were successful because they were cheating. He just wanted to even the playing field, and I’ll always be grateful to him for that.
Momma Benedetti always taught me better, though, and I couldn’t disappoint Momma. I’d settle for an honest “D” that I earned with a lot of extra credit assignments, rather than cheat like the others and have a higher grade that I didn’t honestly earn.
Tommy went on to be a highly regarded pediatrician, and I have no idea if his fashion sense improved, but I certainly hope so, for his wife’s and family’s sake. What his casual disclosure to my Mom validated with me, though, is that the respect and honesty that I value so much today, were traits that I honed as a child and were actually acknowledged by others way back then.
Thank you, Dr. Tom. Thank you for remembering and acknowledging that and letting my mom know that what she taught me stuck with me and is still an active part of the woman I am today.
Years ago, a highly regarded professor of mine once said to me, “Lucie, whatever you do in life, don’t lose that child-like quality of yours. It will serve you well, if used correctly, but be your downfall if abused by others.”
I never really understood what she meant. Today, unfortunately, I do understand – understand all too well.
I miss the kid in me and wonder if I’m aging because I’ve lost her or lost her because I’m aging?
Therein lies the paradox.
Until next time, People, be kind to one another and I’ll catch ya the next adventure, looking at life from my shoes.