i have a very strong memory from childhood — young childhood. it’s a memory of my first self-awareness of my propensity for sin. of course, i wouldn’t have put it that way. but i was overwhelmed — almost to the point of being sick — with my behavior.
here’s the story:
i was probably somewhere between 5 and 8 years old (it’s odd that i don’t have a more clear idea of exactly how old i was — i normally do), and was visiting my grandparents in ann arbor, michigan (go blue!). my aunt and uncle were there also — jim and carol groesbeck (now in colorado springs). they were young marrieds at the time.
my aunt carol took my on some errands, and when we passed a carnival, i begged her to stop and let me go on one ride. she relented. after the ride, i begged for some cotton candy, a treat i normally didn’t get to have in my home. she was reluctant to spend the money, and i made up a justification that i wanted to get it so i could share it with my uncle jim (her husband). i think i knew i was pushing the truth, but i justified it to my little self in a full-blown plan to actually share.
but the cotton candy was too good. i got to a half-way point and stopped, thinking i needed to share the rest. but ‘one more bite’ wouldn’t change much. ‘just one more bite’ continued over and over again as we drove back to my grandparents, with me, the whole time, stating over and over again how i was looking forward to sharing it with uncle jim. by the time we got home, all i had was the paper cone the cotton candy had come on, with dark pink moist patches of cotton candy residue. in the midst of this process, i had wholly convinced myself i really was going to share.
we pulled into the driveway, and uncle jim came out. i jumped out of the car and excitedly said, “uncle jim! look what i brought you! aunt carol let me get it for us to share!” and i handed him the pink-and-white slimy paper tube. he grinned from ear to ear, thanked me, and pretended to start nibbling on the residue. i was just old enough to realize he was faking it (he thought he could fool me).
and it hit me like a ton of bricks: i’m a dirtbag. i lied. i never intended to share, and only used that as an excuse to get what i wanted. but what was really startling to me was how i had convinced myself (between the original manipulation and the revealing) that i was going to share, even though i continued on my original course of eating the whole thing.
recently, a group of people i was with were storyboarding our lives, and we were asked to pick five high-points and five low-points. it had been suggested that one of each be our earliest memories. this story came back to me. some days, not much has changed.