... Living a lie - and loving it!
Like so many families, there was a great deal of friendly rivalry in our household as to who was the "favorite" child while we were growing up. My Mother used this competition to the utmost in persuading each of us to do better in our studies or in doing chores around the house.
In a twist of fate, I received a leg up on the "favorite" son label that swept away the opposition for years to come - and it was completely unplanned. Nor was the true story ever told until now.
The scene was the morning after Christmas in the mid-thirties and most of the presents were still around the tree. As I recall it, two of my younger sisters were playing with toys, including candles for some reason. In an instant, the curtains on the nearby window caught fire - and chaos existed for the next few minutes. The children screamed, waking everyone in the house, and all of us rushed down to the room. I arrived first - saw the flames - grabbed a garment - and had every intention of smothering the fire with the cloth in hand.
In a flash my Father raced into the room - dashed to the burning curtain - pulled it down and threw it out the window - and with that the fire was out and the crisis had passed. But, the drama continued...
Enter Mother Mary, who quickly assessed the situation but still looked concerned - until she saw me standing immobile, with the piece of cloth still in my hands. "Oh, Jimmy", she said, "You saved my new coat; I was sure that it would be burned to a crisp!"
And so the legend (and the deceit) began. The cloth I held in my hands was a brand new coat with a fur collar that Dad had bought Mary for Christmas. She had wanted and needed one for some time; she loved the coat then and for many years afterwards. Through the years, Mother told this incident many times to various groups and I felt a twinge of guilt every time I heard it. (Just a little.)
And now my 60 plus years of deceit is no longer a secret and my siblings will now know why I was the "favorite" son in the family. To be honest, however, it didn't help me when the will was read. Will? What will?
November 3, 2000