Friday, May 16, 2008

Lies We Tell Our Children

Brian Micklethwait has an interesting series of links and posts about "Lies We Tell Our Children". You could list Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, step on a crack-break your mother's back, the Tooth Fairy, or the doctrine of Original Sin. In Brian's case, the falsehoods were related to the death of the family cat.

It reminded me of one of my favorite stories about my daughter, The Future Aggie. You couldn't force her to read this blog at gunpoint, so this story should be safe here. Unless one of you people rat me out.

Every year, Fort Worth has a big celebration called Mayfest. There are a few carnival rides, but it's mostly fund-raiser booths, live bands, and good food. A fun time is had by all.

Payments at Mayfest are done with coupons. This lessens the need for cash handling and security at so many different locations. I probably bought about $50 worth of coupons. We rode a few rides, ate some junk food and were having a great time until we saw....the piglets.

They were Vietnamese Pot-Bellied piglets, miniature versions of regular pigs. In the mid-90's, there was a fad of keeping them as pets. Mother and Father pig were nowhere to be seen, which should've been a warning. Three Pot-Bellied piglets were for sale - something like $50 each for the larger two, and $30 for the runt of the litter. The Future Aggie was enthralled. Fascinated. Obsessed. She would be a Vietnamese Pot-Bellied pig owner, or die in the effort.

All Mayfest fun ended once piglets entered our sight. The Future Aggie has always been obsessed with animals, and will soon be going to the Veterinary Science school at Texas A&M. We now own 3 weiner dogs, and sorta own 3 cats. We've had as many as 17 lizards, including a basilisk named Norbert.

I didn't see room in the equation for a piglet, since in my experience, if left alone, piglets have always grown up to be pigs.

"Daddy, can we get a piglet? Huh? Huh? I'll take care of it, I promise, I promise....huh? Huh? I can pay you back out of my allowance? Can we get the little one?"

"We don't have room for a piglet," I lied.

"Daddy, we have plenty of room," she said. "Our back yard is huge."

"They eat too much," I lied.

"I'll feed it out of my allowance," she said. "Can we get the little one? He's the runt, so he won't eat much? Please?"

"No. We can't come home from Mayfest with a piglet," I said. "People would talk. Your mother would kill us both. I don't want to hear any more about it. Let's go ride some rides."

The Future Aggie appeared to be over it, since there was no more talk of pigs for at least thirty seconds. I kept invoking Mrs. Whited Sepulchre's absence from the decision, and how she would at least want to have input as to which piglet we'd purchase.

Then we saw the climbing wall. It was about 35 feet tall, portable, and had the usual assortment of knobs, projections and footrests bolted to it. If you haven't seen these before, there's a pulley at the top that a safety harness mechanism is threaded through. In this case, it projected about two feet over the climbing wall like a gallows.
At the very top of the wall was a bell. If you could ring the bell, the crowd applauded. Then you would rappel down the wall into the waiting arms of your girlfriend, you would High-5 your buddies, and you would feel more macho than anyone else.

But high school and college boys were getting about halfway up this climbing wall, getting scared, and bailing out. (Since the wall was portable, it swayed a little.) There were at least a dozen people in line to try it. Since it was expensive, The Future Aggie asked to try. I reasoned that if it would take her mind off the piglets, I was all for it, and forked over $12 worth of coupons. While we were waiting in line, a helpful cheerleader-type employee put her in a small safety harness and gave her a few climbing tips.

In the meantime, a kid who looked like an American Gladiators contestant got halfway up the wall and came to a halt. He was scared to death because the wall was swaying. His buddies on the ground started booing. The Future Aggie looked on apprehensively as the kid on the wall faked a loss of balance and rappeled to the ground.

"Daddy," said The Future Aggie, "I think I might want to go look at some other things, and then come back to this...."

"Don't you even THINK about backing out of this. I've paid $12 in coupons."

Another huge athletic boy went halfway up the wall. Then he started climbing very, very slowly. "You can see Dallas from here," he said, before he muttered some obscenities and gave up, dropping into a knot of his friends. They called him names.

The Future Aggie didn't miss any of this. "I think if we went and got something to eat first, I'd have more strength and energy...."

"Dang it, we're not leaving this line," I said. "If we leave now, we'll never get back to this line."

"Well, what if we just rested a little right here, and let some of these other people go first?" she asked.

"I tell you what," I said, in a moment of weakness, "Get on that damn wall, climb to the top, and ring that bell. If you ring that bell, I'll buy you a piglet."

It was like that feeling you get as you slam the car door shut when you know your keys will be locked inside. I couldn't stop myself. I knew as my mouth, tongue, and teeth formed the sentences that I was making a mistake.

All of a sudden the climbing wall that had been Mount Everest was nothing but a speed bump. The Future Aggie was transformed. She ran to the climbing instructor, the perky cheerleader-type girl, and tugged at her shirt. "Hey, my Dad is going to buy me a piglet if I can ring the bell at the top. Can you teach me how to climb better?"

The climbing instructor, the perky cheerleader-type girl....she's going to Hell. She taught The Future Aggie all sorts of helpful climbing tips and hints. By the time we got to the front of the line, my daughter could've ascended the north face of The Matterhorn without an oxygen tank.

"Listen up, everyone !" the perky cheerleader-type climbing instructor said. "This is (insert The Future Aggie's name here). Her Dad is going to buy her a Vietnamese Pot-Bellied Piglet if she can get to the top of the wall and ring the bell !"

Half of the forty-or-so people gathered around the base of the climbing wall applauded politely for the nice father who was willing to reward his child with a piglet. The other half of the crowd, mostly the veteran onlookers, scowled viciously at the a-hole who had set an impossible task in front of his daughter.

Once the safety line was clipped to her harness, The Future Aggie went up the wall like Spiderman. "Go Go Go Go Go Go Go," the crowd chanted. "Slow Slow Slow Slow Slow," I thought. More and more Mayfest attendees gathered around the climbing wall.

It got difficult at the halfway point. Maybe the knobs and projections were further apart. She kept going. It took her ten minutes to go five more feet. Wagers were placed. Money was changing hands. As a compulsive gambler, I almost bet against my own offspring, and was prevented from doing so only by the knowledge that I might need all my money to buy a freakin' pig.

At the 3/4 point, The Future Aggie slipped and lost contact with the wall altogether, spinning around on the end of the safety rope like a little spider. Once every revolution she would reach out toward the wall and miss it. The perkly little cheerleader-type climbing instructor, guaranteeing herself an even hotter spot in hell, told her to be still and stop spinning. Once that happened, she grabbed a wall projection with her feet and pulled herself to the wall.

The crowd down below went nuts. Totally batshit nuts. Total strangers were slapping me on the back in well-intentioned gestures of solidarity and support.

Ten minutes later, after a few more incidents of separation from the wall, The Future Aggie reached up and rang the bell. The cheers could be heard in Waco. She kicked away from the wall, leaned back like a commando, and allowed the hellbound cheerleader to lower her to Terra Firma.

"Ok, let's go buy a pig," she said.
Climbing Wall photo is from Moonwalk Rentals.
Vietnamese Potbellied Pig photo is from Stashy


Francis Shivone said...

Great story. You had me all the way, looking forward to the rest.

zbethwalker said...

Well, what is the lie? Did you renig on the pig?
Waiting with bated breath>