Try This Exercise

We didn’t kiss relatives on the mouth. However, one summer when I was maybe six or seven, my family hosted a large family gathering in our back yard in Rock Hill, South Carolina. The day was sweet and lazy, aunts and uncles chatting and smoking on chaise lounges, some snoozing in hammocks, cousins playing store or school or movie stars in my sister’s and my playhouse, which was tucked behind the wisteria. Lunch was fried chicken, potato salad, candied yams, biscuits, and iced tea on picnic tables. Late afternoon, when the sun was growing pale and everyone was leaving, Uncle Jack kissed me good-bye on the lips. That wouldn’t have been so remarkable, except that earlier in the day I’d overheard Aunt Gertrude whisper to Mother that Uncle Jack had been diagnosed with cancer. I just knew he’d now given it to me. I didn’t say a word to my parents because I didn’t want to worry them, but that night, as I lay crying in my bed, picturing my early death, Mother heard my sobs and came to my side.

“What’s wrong, Judy?” she asked, rubbing my back through my shortie pajamas.

“I’ve got bad news. I have cancer,” I said.

What did you believe when you were a child that you know, now that you’re an adult, is not true?

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12 Responses to Try This Exercise

  1. Greta James says:

    First thought that came to mind: I believed that eating raw macaroni and swallowing my bubble gum would stick my guts together.

  2. Isabel Reddy says:

    I believed in Santa, probably after I knew it was a myth. Like hanging onto a flashlight in a dark room , or imagining the light that just went out.

  3. When I was probably four years old, I can remember trying to convince my best friend that we started out old and grew younger and that her and I were close to being at the end of our time. I told her I could remember when I was an old lady. I no longer know if I really believed that or not.

    • Judy Goldman says:

      All three of these responses were wonderful. I really like the combination of raw macaroni and gum, Greta. Isabel, your note was just plain poetry. And Colleen, you obviously had a writer’s imagination early on. Thanks to you all for writing.

  4. June says:

    My mother would come up with creative ways to keep me from asking for much when I was a child (in other words, she would lie). I remember one time when I was pleading for an ice cream cone. We were walking home from a friend’s where we had just eaten fish, so my mother told me that I would die if I ate dairy products immediately after seafood. It was common knowledge, she told me, but a former classmate of hers was foolish enough to try it a few years out of high school, and boom! she died right away. I immediately began to wonder how I had made it so far in life without succumbing to the same fate– blind luck, that was all it was. Mom probably forgot all about this incident by the time we got home, but I was terrified to eat ice cream after seafood well into my twenties. I am still cautious now, at age 40, when I have a latte after a dinner that includes anything from the sea; I ask for soy milk.

  5. Judy Goldman says:

    From a child’s viewpoint, that is horrifying. From a writer’s viewpoint, it’s incredible material. Use that, June! It’s a wonderful story. Thanks for responding.

  6. julius says:

    As children, we believed everything. As adults, we wished we were children again so we’ll never stop belieiving.

  7. Naomi Richardson says:

    When I was five I asked my mother if my new little sister could see me. “No,” my mother replied, “she can’t see you.” From that I understood that human babies were born blind; further confirmed by kittens and dogs being born blind. It wasn’t until my physiology class in physical therapy school that I learned the truth. I remember sliding down in my chair, not wanting to be seen…as if everyone could see the foolish belief in my head disinegrate under the weight of scientific facts.

  8. Judy Goldman says:

    Naomi, thank you for posting that wonderful little vignette. It has a perfect arc. I love it.

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