A good memory is needed once we have lied. — Pierre Corneilli
In everyone’s life, there comes a time when you have an AHAA! moment. When a small incident causes you to learn a lesson that will stick with you all your life, usually learned the hard way. It has been truthfully said that we never stop learning. But our knowledge is usually gained in the class of LIFE, when we learn how to navigate without screwing up royally. Or at least try to, anyway.
From the age of five to seven, I lived in The Kingdom of Belgium, for the most part in the city of Antwerp. We lived in a small Turkish neighborhood, with brownstone buildings clustered all over, and tiny, immigrant-owned shops perched on every corner. The owner of our building was a man in his early 70’s — Debuk Leevinus — who, despite being considerably wealthy, was stingy, and preferred to fix all home-maintenance issues himself.
We lived on the very top floor, and it was a great hassle to climb the narrow, curved stairs. On the first floor lived a family who immigrated from Mongolia — the Dodzhabars. In the back of our building we had a little backyard. It was a nice getaway from the city life, because it belonged to the residents of our building alone. There were a couple of trees, and a few pool recliners. For the first year of our life in Antwerp, the backyard was filthy, due in part to the renters who lived on the first floor before the family from Mongolia moved in. Afterwards, all of the residents from our building made a united effort to clean it.
On one particular evening after Aruna, the youngest daughter of the Dodzhabar family, and I were tired of playing with the other neighborhood kids, we sneaked into the backyard to relax on the pool recliners (mind you, there was no pool). In one particular corner we saw a bucket of yellow paint. I was in the first grade, and Aruna was in kindergarten. Ten years later, I admit, I was the instigator.
“How about,” I slyly mention to Aruna, “We paint that dirty wall over there with this pretty yellow paint?”
Ten minutes later, one wall was dripping with yellow paint. There was also a puddle of it on the floor. That’s when the kids from the third floor, three little boys, came down — immigrants from Pakistan. They also got a brush and began painting a plastic TABLE.
So I was like, “Hey, you can’t do that!”
And they were all, “Why not? You did!”
So Aruna and I said, “OUR PARENTS TOLD US TO!” (Biggest lie ever.)
By the end of the evening, the whole yard was sickly yellow. Aruna and I high-fived each other and went home.
Forty-five minutes later, I hear a knock at our door. It’s my sister, and the older twins of the Dodzhabar family. All three are in shock, asking whether I know anything about the yellow backyard.
I say, without flinching, “I saw the boys from the third floor do it!!!”
So the twins and my sister storm down to the third floor to ask what happened. I, very stupidly, come down as well. The oldest of the three boys opens the door. They ask about the yellow paint. He says, “We weren’t the ones that started it. There were two other girls doing it first!” And I speak up, barking, “It was YOU!” That’s when he notices me, and says, “Hey…you’re one of the girls!”
All eyes looked at me. Whoops.
See, if it was me today, I would have NEVER came down to that third floor as well. I would just hide out at home, vehemently denying everything.
And although I did still try to vehemently deny, it was no use. I was dragged down to that backyard, where all adults proceeded to yell at me. Apparently, I should have known better because I was older than Aruna. My sisters and Aruna’s sisters spent the rest of the night scrubbing off the yellow paint, while I smugly sat by my mothers side.
Despite being yelled at, and the boys from Pakistan giving us away, it was still REALLY cool painting that well yellow. And besides, it was one of the greatest lessons I have ever learned. If you are going to lie, at least do it well!