by Kimberly MacCarron
It was hard to think of the worst advice I’ve ever received. There was probably a ton of it through the years, but I’m a bit on the hardheaded side. Unless it lines up with what I want to do in the first place, I don’t generally take it.
I guess the worst advice (or maybe the best, depending on the circumstance) I’ve been given that would also influence my life today would be: Don’t Add Spice to the Story!
Now, I’m sure you’re all wondering what that means. I won’t sugarcoat this. When I was a kid, I lied. A lot.
My mom lived her life vicariously through me, and that’s a lot of responsibility to heap on a young girl’s shoulders. She lived to hear my stories about school and friends, but how exciting is elementary school? Not very.
Now, all my stories started with facts. They were based on facts. Just the final tale wasn’t a true reflection of the actual event. Yes… I lied. I told you that!
If we had a fire drill at school, in another girl’s story, we went outside and then came back in. My story usually had people running in various states of panic, kids getting lost and hiding under tables. Oh, my, there was a lot of drama going into the telling too. Don’t get me started with my hand gestures and body language. And I’m not even Italian!
My mom slowly—maybe a little too slowly—picked up on my special art form, and she would ask, “Kimberly, are you adding spice to the story?” Then I would nod and look away. Or sometimes I even lied about that. Because if the end story was super duper good in my head, I had to let it out. The story had to be told!
I didn’t have much money growing up, but apparently I had enough to have a complete circus come to my house. I’m not sure why the other kids believed that one. Then there was this time I saw this tiny little monkey in the Guinness Book of World Records. He reminded me of that stuffed koala bear whose arms attached to the end of my pencil. Oh, my God! I wanted that Pygmy Marmoset! I dreamed of the little fellow. I showed all the kids at school the picture and then told them that I had one. I went on and on about my cute little Pygmy. How much he loved me and would climb right up my thumb and attach himself there.
Then Show and Tell Day came. My turn up to bat. I needed a Pygmy Marmoset, stat!
I went home and told my mom about the lie I told (because by this time she was in on my super-secret power) and I needed her help to get me out of it. At that time I thought my mom would do anything for me, and she probably would have. Unfortunately that didn’t include a quick jaunt to the Amazon and overnight transport of my record-holding friend. Most people would own up to their lies. Be a better person and all that jazz. I calmly went into school and told an outrageous story about climate issues not being good for my tiny teeny friend, and he sadly passed. But I was able to show them the decorated shoebox where he lived those last few hours.
This “story-telling” gift I managed to make for myself came with lots of problems though. Although my mom understood, kids really didn’t get that I was telling a story without much fact. Who knew that was important at that tender age? But I loved being the center of attention when I told a story. I loved that people couldn’t walk away. I loved that wide-eyed I-can’t-even-believe-this-happened look.
And God help the poor girl who actually had a truthful story that was better than my imaginary one.
On a trip to an all-day Girl Scout camp, this girl started talking about how she had ridden horses before. Well, that got everyone’s attention. We all listened. I thought about the horse I used to ride at Camp Kon-O-Kwee, where I used to go to summer camp. I thought about my favorite and what it would be like to own her. For her to be my very own horse. So, I stole that other girl’s spotlight lickety-split with these words: “I HAVE a horse. Her name is Misty.”
Yes, folks. I told that busload of overly excited girls that I had a horse. To make matters worse, my mom had driven to the camp to chaperone for the day, so when Colleen Lynch ran over to my mom and said, “I didn’t even know Kim had a horse,” that ball of lies sat uncomfortable-like in the pit of my stomach.
My mom smiled, nodded and looked away. By that time Colleen had found something extremely exciting—like the leather braided bracelet station and took off. My mom gave me THE LOOK and mumbled to me, “Yeah, neither did I.”
These harmless stories went on and on until the sixth grade where I ventured into rumor about real people. And that’s where my story isn’t funny anymore. The girl who made out with this one guy didn’t really do that and I knew it, but I said it anyway. And I ended up creating a huge mess for myself that wouldn’t go away since she lived right next door. It was ugly. It was, in fact, so ugly that I ended up going to an entirely different school. My mom enrolled me in this Christian school, and I made a pact with myself that my fibbing days were at an end.
When I started the new school, I turned over a new leaf. I didn’t add spice to the stories anymore, and I felt this hole inside me. I wondered what it meant that I felt lonely without the lies. Then I realized I was lonely because I just wanted to tell a story.
And my writing days were born. In the comfort of my room I could make up all kinds of stories and put them down on paper where they would never hurt anyone. Where nobody would know the stories weren’t real. They were real to me.
In a way, I’m still a liar. I still make up stories and switch facts around to suit my needs, but now it’s considered a profession. Go figure.
I’m off to add spice to another story—a written one. I guess that’s advice I never followed either. That’s such a shock…