My reputation for making things up wasn’t completely unwarranted. In the second grade, I wore a lime-green plastic ring that I got from a gumball machine and pretended that it gave me magical powers. In the third grade, I told my friends that my dad invented a time machine that was confiscated by the government. And in the fourth grade, I told my music teacher that my sister was the drummer for the Go-Go’s. However, like my genuine monkey-sighting experience, sometimes my fantastic stories were actually true, and sometimes they were the product of using my imagination and interpreting facts the best way I knew how.
As a self-employed inventor who generally took the summers off for a mix of gardening and salt-water fishing, my dad converted about half an acre of our property into raised garden beds, growing virtually every kind of vegetable imaginable. I would often help my dad with his gardening (for a modest fee, of course) while learning to love vegetables in the process. My favorite vegetable, as a seven-year-old, was the lima bean because it was the only vegetable that could grow tall enough to take you up into the clouds. When I told my dad this, instead of explaining the difference between fantasy and reality to me, he chose to bring a little fantasy to my reality.
My dad picked a few beans with me and had me plant them in a bucket on our back porch. He told me that only those we picked were the magic beans that would grow fast and tall enough to go up into the clouds and that every morning when I water them, I will see how tall they grew the night before. The very next morning, I rushed out to the back porch to see if the stalk sprouted. To my surprise, it was already about a foot tall! The following morning, the plant was about three feet tall and resembled a small tree. The morning after, the stalk was at least 15 feet tall, and I could even see it from the skylight in my room. I couldn’t wait to tell all my friends and my second-grade teacher about these magic seeds and my impending journey into the clouds. And I did.
The phone rings.
“Hello, Mrs. Bennett? This is Adele O’Connell, Bo’s teacher.”
“Is everything okay?” asked my mother.
“Oh, everything is fine. Bo is a wonderful, creative, boy...” creative being code for liar “... who is a joy to be around, but I am growing concerned with some of the stories he has been telling lately. Although I do encourage imagination and creative play, I need to draw the line somewhere, so children know that lying is not acceptable.”
“I understand. What did Bo say this time?”
“Well, today at recess, Bo had all the other children mesmerized with how he is growing a magic beanstalk to take him into the clouds, explaining in convincing detail how the plant has grown as tall as his house in just a few days.”
“That’s my husband’s doing,” said my mom.
“My husband, Bob, told my son that some beans we had were magic, helped him plant them, then each night after Bo goes to sleep, Bob has been replacing the smaller tree with a larger one he gets from the woods. Now the goddamn thing is 15 feet tall, and Bob threw out his back. Was there anything else?”
“You didn’t once have a monkey in your backyard, did you?”
Get the book, Some Really Personal, Yet Entertaining Stories From My Life That You Will Enjoy and May Even Find Inspiring by Bo Bennett, PhD by selecting one of the following options:
What is a “normal childhood?” Does it include almost being murdered by your sister with an ax? Speeding around town in the back of a station wagon because your mom is chasing an “alien spaceship”? Being busted by the police for intent to light a pond on fire? Tackling your mom to the ground and wrestling a knife out of her hand because she was trying to kill your dad? While my stories may be unique, readers will be able to relate to the broader themes are part of a normal childhood such as sibling rivalry, eccentric parents, doing stupid things, and frequently preventing one’s parents from literally murdering each other.
Although some of the subject matter is not something one would generally laugh at, you have my permission to laugh. Social rules don’t apply here; my rules do. It works for me, and who knows, after reading the stories from my past, you might be inspired to see your own screwed up past in a more humorous light.
Have a podcast or know someone who does? Putting on a conference? Dr. Bennett is available for interviews and public speaking events. Contact him directly here.