Lies My Parents Told Me This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This work has won the Teen Ink contest in its category.

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     His name was Rupert. He was a gentle, old chocolate lab who loved the crazy beat of jazz. Every summer when we loaded up the car with sparkling new beach toys, I watched Rupert look at us with sad eyes. I felt sorry that he couldn’t join us, but I was told that Rupert was going on an adventure, too. As we pulled out of the packed kennel parking lot, my parents told me that Rupert would meet up with his group, load all the instruments into a taxi, and head to the train station since the summer touring season had arrived. Rupert and the Hot Dogs, an amazing all-dog jazz band, wowed the folks up and down the East Coast.

As we made our way to Florida, I unfolded the map to trace his possible route. I would be burying my dad in the sand on the beach while Rupert would be doing a sound check in New York City’s Rainbow Room. The lights would dim, some beautiful German Shepherd would request a song, and Rupert would gently play his guitar. I imagined he played “Blue Moon,” since he knew it was my favorite.

I even got postcards from him exclaiming “Wish you were here!” I never felt bad about leaving him when we went on our trip to the beach because I knew he was enjoying time with his band. I couldn’t understand why I never saw any of his instruments at home, but my mom told me he liked to keep his two lives separate.

I was three and never questioned her. I did, however, tell our vet about the band. He listened to the story of Rupert’s travels, his eyes slowly growing larger, and then looked at Rupert as a wide grin filled his face. “He’s quite an amazing dog!” Rupert is gone now, and I rarely hear any jazz, but when I do, I wonder if he ever played that tune.

It’s not like my parents lied to me all the time. It’s more like they had fantastic stories for mundane happenings. Take my birth, for example. Early on July 12, 1993, the doctor delivers a healthy 7-pound, 11-ounce baby boy. Everything is fine: two hands, two legs, one head, a loud scream, the usual. As the nurse washes me off, suddenly she lets out a shriek. Something whips around from my backside like a creature right out of “Men in Black.” The doctor rushes over to attend to the shaken nurse. “Jeez, Louise!” he screams as he looks down at me. A small, grass-green reptilian tail whips out and wraps itself around his index finger.

Yes, I was born with a tail. I questioned my parents over and over about this tail and why they had it removed. I even asked my grandparents, and the story is always the same. Well, the doctors said that it was for the best. You know how cruel kids can be and having a tail would be difficult to explain. Anyway, it was removed and placed in a jar that sits deep in the research center at the Mayo Clinic. Yes, the same Mayo Clinic that I saw in the movie “Airplane” years later. I was told that it might be possible to reattach it. When completing a job application, I imagine myself pausing when I come to the special skills section.

I may not have totally believed all these stories, but they were always good for a laugh. One story in particular had me going for years. Now, when I think back, I can’t believe I fell for it. The small, sleek, black animal pounced on an unsuspecting insect. “Shhh!” I was instructed. “Don’t startle it!” The elusive black Florida panther was in our midst. I stared at it and watched it scurry away into the bushes. I remember I wasn’t afraid at all. “How lucky are we,” my parents said, “to actually see a Florida panther!” Indeed, I did feel lucky. I couldn’t believe how small it was. When I saw them on Jeff Corwin’s show they looked much larger. Well, this is a baby panther, I had been told, and you know the camera adds ten pounds. We watched as it re-emerged from the shrubs and playfully swatted a flower. Its tiny meow reminded me of a kitten. Just imagine! Right here outside our vacation condo in Sandestin, a real panther.

The panther turned out to be a stray black cat. But the story served a purpose. This wasn’t simply a routine vacation to the beach, it was a semi-safari. All the stories served purposes, mainly to amuse me, but also to make me realize what a good story is. I wasn’t sad about leaving Rupert, but I always wished he had shared his stories.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

This work has won the Teen Ink contest in its category. This piece won the September 2007 Teen Ink Nonfiction Contest.






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Laurelanne said...
Apr. 24, 2009 at 1:40 pm
Loved this atory! And as a mom of teenagers myself, I have to say that your parents did a terrific job of giving you the gift of storytelling!
 
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