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Smell the Coffee: Home of the whopper

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- I worried that last week's column about lies I've told my daughter might generate outrage and cries for my parenting license to be revoked.

Instead, I learned of my compatriots. Brethren of the Whopper. And I heard from their offspring, who seem to enjoy having their chain yanked to the point where they intend to continue the tradition when they have kids of their own.

"It started so innocently," wrote one man. "Santa Claus was my gateway drug, so to speak. That's how I learned I had a talent for making up extremely believable stories. There was no stopping me after that. My Tooth Fairy was so good other parents would call me. I'd sometimes hit three houses in a single night. Got maybe a little too attached to the tutu, but man -- those were the years. Good times. Good times."

This same man's Easter Bunny once left a trail of real "nuggets" collected from under a neighbor's rabbit cage, and he said his daughter is probably "still in therapy over our death dance sacrifice to the turkey gods. There was simply no stopping it. Once I was started, I couldn't reel it back in. I'm not even going to tell you what we did for Labor Day. Don't know if I'm ashamed or proud."

I also heard from Tom Schottle, who wrote, "Sunday's column brought back memories of my youth. I suppose as the oldest sibling, I was the instigator of a number of lies, but my favorite was one my parents pulled on me. Although we were technically city folks, we lived close enough to the edge of town that we experienced rural life too. We always had a number of wild bunnies around. When I wanted to catch one, I was informed that the easiest way to catch one was to put salt on its tail. So I was given a salt shaker and told to go catch a rabbit. I still remember chasing bunnies with the salt shaker in hand.

"Later in life," Schottle continued, "I was a naval officer and when we went by a 'frontage' road, I usually commented about how it was named after a famous World War II naval hero Adm. George Frontage. My family believed that for a lot of years. So you don't have to be a gullible kid to be fooled."

Dara Namen wrote in an email: "As a single daughter raising a mother, I can attest to the insanity that comes from having two women in the house and the need to keep each other on their toes. While Mom never told me things to test my gullibility, she did enjoy pranks, which, after reading your articles, I believe must be encoded into the genetics of single mothers, or it may be a byproduct of not having other siblings or children in which to direct attention or place the blame. My mother is notorious for getting a good scream out of her victim, intentional or not.

"Her favorite thing to torture me with is a little wind-up bug toy she found at a dollar store," Namen said. "It's a 2-inch-long cockroach on wheels. You pull it back and let it go. She loves to employ this little fella in the kitchen when she's standing next to the stove. She'll pull it back to wind the wheels, put her foot on it to prevent escape, then yell for me. When I'm a couple feet away, she removes her foot, allowing the roach to skitter across the linoleum, sending me screaming up on top of the counters.

"I'm not exactly sure how I get airborne and jump back 5 feet to land on the counter, but Mom manages to bring out unknown superpowers in me. She's had this bug for nearly 10 years and I still fall for it every time. I told Mom I'm putting her in a nursing home as soon as I'm able."

Namen went on to say, "It may seem weird, but I actually enjoy the little pranks and screamfests. It keeps me alert because I never know when she will strike. Also, when a situation occurs in real life, scary or tragic, it doesn't much affect me much because Mom has basically scared the fear out of me. I can face down just about any challenge. Fear rarely registers with me. Scary movies are a joke. If someone jumps out yelling boo! I just sigh and go, 'Mom does it better.'"

The coolest part of Namen's email provides validation for parents like me, crediting us with honing our children's life skills:

"Because of your lies and pranks, your daughter will be more wary and suspicious, making her a cautious young lady who will know when someone is yanking her chain. Too many young people today are gullible, believing everything the media and their peers tell them. Had they been raised by a pranking mother, they may have stood a better chance."

And then she followed that with some smart-aleck bit about letting my daughter know if the nursing facility where she's sending her mother will offer group rates.

Reach Karin Fuller via email at karinfuller@gmail.com.


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