When you were a little kid, what did your parents tell you that you still live by? Think about it. I’ll bet that some of those early instructions, for better or worse, still drive you in how you approach the world today.For instance, my mom spent my early childhood trying to get me to speak more quietly and act like a lady. I tried for years to obey her instructions—right up to the day I figured out that the real Jeanne, loud and sometimes crude, was the only persona I could sanely inhabit as an adult. Sorry, Mother. Better luck next lifetime.
My dad, less concerned with how the world around us perceived me, was different.
When I was a very young girl, about ten, I think, my father said something to me I’ve never forgotten. He said, “Jeannie, remember this: always tell the truth. If you do that, you’ll never get into any real trouble.”
You know how some things stick? That one did. So did his urging to “look both ways at railroad crossings—even if the gates are up and no lights are flashing.”
Perhaps it was the look in his eyes as he said those things. Perhaps it was the time of day and the way the light hit his face. Perhaps it was the timbre of his deep voice, growing even deeper with those edicts. I don’t know why, of all the things he ever said to me, those phrases so resonated in my young brain.
Years later, when I was attending my senior prom, the principal of our high school interrupted the music and dancing. He had tears in his eyes. When he made the announcement, the prom ended in a quiet hush. What did he say? “Carl Loos was killed tonight crossing the railroad tracks at Lagonda and Mullins Roads. He was on his way to pick up Mary Lou McMurray. The crossing and lights were not functioning.”
Carl Loos had been my classmate since first grade at St. Raphael’s and again at Catholic Central. He was not one of the popular kids. He was Just a quiet, sweet boy who planned to follow his father and grandfather into farming after he graduated. He never won any awards or starred on any team, but everyone knew him. And liked him. Because he never did anything mean to anyone—ever.
And now he was gone.
He earned himself a “Remembrance” page in Spires, our Yearbook that year. We all went to the funeral and then, frankly, forgot him. At least I did. I was a pretty shallow little princess back then, ready to head off to Ohio University and join a sorority.
Lois Anne, another of the unpopular kids in my senior year because she was a plain, acne-riddled girl invented herself a boyfriend. She called him Carl. Carl was always away when it came to school parties or dances. Her “Carl,” who went to a different school, was always off somewhere competing in some football or basketball tournament on party or dance nights. He was sad he couldn’t escort her and meet all her friends. She spoke of their engagement and impending wedding with great passion. It would be out of town.
Everybody knew her Carl was imaginary, but we speculated some that perhaps she’d had a crush on Carl Loos and was reinventing a new, exciting life for him.
It was all very sweet, and no one ever made fun of her for her fantasy. In some universe or other, perhaps the two of them were living a grand love affair, probably nothing that would have happened in their real lives.
An alternative universe driven by alternative facts! It could be fun, I think.
For instance, did you know that I am 5’9” and weigh 120 pounds? And…I am 35 years old! Plus, I was a the Homecoming Queen in college? Further, I won the Nobel Peace Prize for bringing up four feisty daughters without once acting on my threats of death or dismemberment?
Bet you didn’t know all that about me, did you? But in my alternative world driven by “alternative facts,” this is the truth. So what if it’s all in my head? It’s not going to hurt anyone, is it?
If you doubt me, just ask Kelly Anne Conway. She’s my sister by a different mother and father. How do I know this? My grandmother’s last name was Kelly; my niece is Anne; and I once worked for an attorney named Conway. So, we must be sisters somewhere along the line. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.
When #45 named her as his spokeswoman, I made the decision that if I were ever on trial for murder, she’s the person I’d hire to talk my way out of the charge. Seriously, she talked him through all his blunders in the beginning and never lost that smile. Think of it.
He admitted to assault on women; he vilified Mexicans and Muslims with exaggerations of violence; he insulted Gold Star parents and war heroes. And Kelly Anne talked, and talked, and talked, never losing that smile. Masterful!
Of late, however, Ms. Conway has lost some of her sparkle. I fear that is what happens when you live in a world of “alternative facts” for too long. Looking at her now on TV (which is happening less and less often—have you noticed?), I note the tighter set of the jaw, the new lines of deception etched around the eyes, and the mouth strained around the gums by fabrication.
Guess a person can only lie through her teeth for so long before it takes its toll. And I’m not even going to mention that God-awful red-white-and-blue number she wore to the inauguration.
But enough of her.
This musing is the result of real fear in my soul. What is honesty in the 21st century? Who can we trust? Is there any fact that is solid, black and white, and just plain true?
#45 would tell us we can’t find it in the New York Times, The Washington Post, or in any TV news outlet except Fox. Is this all resulting from his fear of discovery of truth about his involvement in Russia?
I think so.
What a hell of a way to run a country!
This all leads me to ponder what Fred Trump whispered in little Donnie’s ears when #45 was a boy.
Jeanne Charters is a New Yorker blissfully relocated to Asheville. She lives there with her husband, Matt Restivo, and their dog, Bucky. Her novel, Shanty Gold, is available at Malaprops and Mountain Made in Asheville; at Highland Books in Brevard; at Blue Ridge Books and News in Waynesville; at The Book Shelf in Tryon; and, of course, Amazon. Jeanne invites you to enjoy her blogs on Irish historical tidbits as well as the process of writing and publishing a book. Visit her website, or contact her at email@example.com.