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Memories: Home of the Whopper

by Shya Kane

I told some whoppers when I was a kid. Some were childish fantasmagorical imaginings - like those of my 5 year old grandson, Max, when he tells me that worms have 100 brains and that is why it is good to eat a worm’s head. Other fibs of mine were more calculating and unkind, though I wasn’t fully aware of it then. Like the time I told my mother an entirely fabricated story that I had been harassed on the way home by a band of older bullies who called me names – all in an elaborate attempt at misdirection so that she would be so concerned with my welfare that she wouldn’t notice that I had slipped a couple of dollars from her pocketbook.

But of all the tales I told, large and small, I hardly expected that a whopper of a fish tale would come back to me more than 50 years later from the memory of a young child, now man.

When I was in my early teens, a fellow named Marvin Victor worked for my Dad and Marvin and I shared a mutual interest in fishing. So although I was young, he and I started a friendship that lasted well into my adulthood until he ultimately died from a failed kidney transplant. When I was a youngster, however, Marvin would take me bass fishing in upstate New York. Marvin also had a stepson, Mark, who was 3 or 4 years younger than I so he encouraged us to be friends. I tried to be friendly, of course, but like most 15 year olds, a boy of 11 or 12 wasn’t of much interest. Mark looked up to me, though. He trailed after me as boys are wont to do and I told him a fish story or two about "the ones that got away" - or in my case, a really good fantasy about the one that got blown up.

My vivid imagination was a fertile ground for stories of daring and excitement that in fact had never happened. So I told Mark in great detail about the time I caught a really large striped bass one day while fishing. But instead of letting the bass go or keeping him for dinner, according to my story, I took an M80 (a really large firecracker), lit the fuse, stuffed it down the fish’s gullet and let him swim down to the murky deep. The fish, I said, ultimately exploded in a spray of water and fish guts and slime and scales. I can almost see it now.

Mark, a wide-eyed youth, believed my tale. Of course, that is just what I intended. Just like telling ghost stories with my friends and shouting "boo" was supposed to scare them, which it always did even if they knew what was coming.

50 years later, Mark and I reconnected. He is now a father of two children of his own. Still bristling with anger about his father and step father and still trying to reconcile his feelings, he is oddly enough now a counselor, a therapist and he helps people make sense of their lives. A funny thing happened though, as Mark and I casually chatted about our childhoods. He brought up the exploding bass story but it quickly became obvious that his childish mind had rewritten the fable as if it were true. He actually not only believed I had demolished that fish, he now even remembers the story as if he were there watching the event. It was a larger than life lie reconfigured as truth.

Gently I tried to tell him it wasn’t true. He was insulted. It was as if I had told a man in his 50s that the Santa he believed in all these years was a myth. He tenaciously held onto his memories even though as a psychologist he knew that studies have proved how false memories can be remembered even more vividly than actual events.

I mentioned the studies to Mark and although he knew of them he swore it wasn’t true in his case and after momentarily being taken aback by his vehemence, I could quickly see the difficulty. If Mark challenged this long held and treasured memory it would open up Pandora’s box. If he admitted to the possibility that his memory was faulty, then what about the list of grievances against those who raised him that he still held as viable and true? What would happen if all of that fell away and he had to look at the possibility that he was angry not because of his Dad, or his childhood or any of the other really good reasons he gave himself? What if his world was built on childish whoppers rewritten as reality over time?

Somehow I found the truth curiously relieving. Occasionally my current circumstances trigger old memories of times I was "done wrong" as a child. But now I can actually smile as I realize that some of these events probably never happened. And even if they did, my remembrances need hold no sway over my life today. They are just old ghost stories and I no longer need to jump when those memories say "Boo!"…or even when they say "Boo Hoo!"

Since 1987, internationally acclaimed authors, seminar leaders, and business consultants Ariel and Shya Kane have acted as guides, leading people through the swamp of the mind into the clarity and brilliance of the moment. To find out more about the Kanes and their Transformational Community or to sign up to receive their article of the month, visit their website at: www.TransformationMadeEasy.com

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