Memories · The Last Half Century

Instant Ancestors and Fake History

Years ago I was browsing in an antique shop when a saw a large collection of old pictures of people hanging on a wall. A sign posted in the middle of the collection read, “Instant Relatives.”’ I studied the black and white pictures with families and couples posing for the camera. The sign presented an intriguing thought. Afterall, who would know if I adopted the people in the pictures as my ancestors?

Intriguing as it may have been, I did not buy any of those pictures. But it did bring to light a dilemma for me. My kids weren’t around for the first few years of our marriage or when I was dating my wife. I mean, who is going to fact check the details if I embellish our personal history? “Oh no,” I consider how I might reassure my daughter, “Grandma and your aunts and uncles just don’t remember how it really happened.”

Okay, so I didn’t give into temptation and told the truth about our personal history, but I must confess there were times I came close to embellishing certain facts. Like the time when our kids were very young and one asked, “How did you and mom meet?” I recall those precious little eyes staring up at me, wanting to know how we became a couple.

There was a brief moment, a flash of temptation, a slight urge to fabricate an amazing story. At the time I knew this little one had no way to fact check my story. Wikipedia wasn’t a thing then and a dial-up modem was how we accessed the Internet. (If you don’t know what dial-up is, all you need to know is that it was slow, very slow.)

“Well, I was on this expedition in the Amazon rain forest with a Harvard research team and your mom was with a group from Yale conducting an anthropological study on indigenous people,” I considered telling them, but my conscious makes me reconsider. “Too many big words — they’ll never understand,” I told myself.

“Your mom was part of a mountain helicopter rescue team. She swooped in and saved me after I was caught in an avalanche while I was helicopter skiing in the Alps doing advance work for a James Bond film crew,” I considered telling them in a calm and cool voice. “Nah,” I reconsidered, “It would have to be advance work on a kids movie to make it believable.”

“We met on a blind date,” I finally confessed to my daughter. “A friend of ours set us up.” Her face lit up with a pleased look. “Cool,” she smiled. Sometimes we don’t give ourselves enough credit that our life story is actually more interesting than the people we read about in the news.

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