Tall Tales

I miss the good old days. The days when the girls were young and Dad was king. I could do no wrong and my tales of grandeur were taken as fact. Those were the days – and they’ll never come back.

It was our first time to the movie theater. Elena was no older than 5, Gracie no older than 4. Elena was captivated with the experience while Gracie remained obsessed with trying to balance herself of the edge of the flip-up seat. Brooke, with a soda in one hand and popcorn in the other, alternated promises of punishment with threats in an attempt to get Gracie to settle into the only peace she knew before she would quickly fall asleep. I, on the other hand, leaned in and whispered to Elena my secret. “Look above,” I said while gesturing to the ceiling, “see those panels on the ceiling? Those are Manner-Doors.” Her eyes grew larger as she looked above with some hesitation. “You see, they’re there to keep kids behaving. If you count the panels you’ll find that there’s one for every seat in the theater. Now look behind you. See the window at the back of the theater?” She quickly spun around and nodded. “That is where they watch. The moment they see a child misbehaving they pull a lever and the appropriate door opens and out falls an elephant to squash the child below.” Now frozen in place, she looked ahead. “Just don’t tell Gracie – I want to see if they drop a baby elephant or a mommy one.” Of course I knew my secret wouldn’t last between sisters and within moments Gracie too knew the secret. And for the rest of the movie, we watched Curious George while Gracie sat motionless staring at the door above.

It was the same with many of my tales – from the original taco recipe my great grandfather Earnesto Santiago Dessericho brought with him from Mexico to the story of Santa Claus (I’ve always insisted to the girls and now Gracie that he just isn’t real. Then again, ever since I stopped believing, I’ve never gotten another present for Christmas.) But with Gracie now eight, my influence is waning. I blame Gracie’s teachers. Brooke says I’ve taken it too far and it’s only logical that Gracie would grow smarter. Still, I remember the day when even Brooke believed. It was the day I introduced her to my family – taking special note to tell her not to mention my Aunt’s mustache. After all, “she’s sensitive ever since she had that sex change to a woman” I told her. That night I don’t think she noticed much else. Of course there was no mustache and definitely no sex change operation, but it did successfully help Brooke overcome the inevitable nervousness in meeting the in-laws.

Brooke believed because she was blinded by love. Gracie believes because she is gullible. I’m not sure if Elena ever believed but she never admitted otherwise for fear that I actually believed myself. And she’d never want to be the one that destroyed Dad’s delusions. But today as Gracie grows older I realize I’ve suddenly become the least mature member of the family. Brooke says I should grow up. I think I just need another ally – maybe two more children. After all, we have to outnumber the grown-ups. They just have to promise that they’ll never stop believing.

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