Early on I learned the finer art of Blame (…defined in Diane’s Dictionary as: ‘the unfairer art of fingering a more likely perp than yourself’.)
Over the years I built a bucketful of Possibilities on the ever-popular ‘Who Dunnit?’ query of my childhood.
Some early choices:
1. My Sister. Thank goodness Mom was thoughtful enough to provide another kid after 1.5 years: the PERFECT age range for Blame. The gift of implicating a smaller, as-yet speechless Little Devil in the house was absolutely priceless. Until she was old enough to learn the meaning of the words ‘protest’ and ‘innocent’ (and believe me, this point came waaay too soon, in my book!), Sis was the perfect Fall Gal for my best and earliest exploits.
2. Squeeko. Mom invents the boogey man outta sheer desperation, Diane befriends him. All was well until I learned the concept of ‘revenge’ and quickly developed an unhealthy, hitherto-unknown fear of boogeyman Squeeko. But he gots 2 solid years of delightful blame in all kinds of misadventures until that point, so I stick by my admonition that guilt is a terrible thing to teach a child…especially when you have to feel guilty about implicating someone – or something – else.
3. The Family Dog. Here was another OUTSTANDING choice for Blame. Any exploit that didn’t involve hands was up for ‘The Dog Didit’. Muffin was always a good sport. She obediently looked guilty and slunk to her bed at ANY insinuation of blame, pretty well cinching the matter; even in the Great Cookie Jar Raid (where, conceivably, the dog COULD have used a series of chairs and table to gain access to the far counter where said Jar was kept. Lawyer Diane demonstrated the entire possibility for Judge Mom who (shoulders mysteriously shaking) conceded the possibility and the irrefutable logic of ‘The Dog Didit’ as I rested my case and won the trial.
4. When all else fails, confess to the impossible. “It’s a MYSTERY to me!” actually was a handy phrase gleaned from television, I believe: but it worked every time. Add a puzzled expression and two widely-flung open hands and you had an expression of innocence that implied supernatural involvement in any given mystery.
Several specific scenarios involving #4 come too-readily to mind:
1. The Great Fried Eggs Experiment. One unusually hot summer (…and being a native San Franciscan I think I can expertly state that there were only like 2 hot summers in my entire childhood) an experiment was personally conducted revolving around the just-heard-that-morning admonition by Mom before she left to help my Dad at work (leaving me in the company of the latest BS = BabySitter) of “It’s hot enough to fry an egg on the sidewalk!” Never being one to let a good idea languish, when Mom came home 4 hours later each sidewalk square in front of our house held a single egg (12 in all, to be precise. The entire box, in other words.) And, always safety-conscious, I had scrounged some ‘unused’ red hazard cones to place on either end so nobody would unsuspectingly walk into my experiment. WHO could have snagged the cones from the construction site around the corner? WHO could have filched said eggs and managed to – if not sloppily – break each egg un-neatly into a sidewalk square? And WHO, in the name of science, made sure that each square could cook a different style of egg, from Over Uneasy to Scrambled, Sunny Side Up, etc.? It was a mystery to me….
2. Death and Funerals. I was about 5 when I actually absorbed the fact that nuttin’ dead was about to resurrect itself any time soon, despite the packaging of Easter and my ongoing hopes revolving around “dead pets rising”. In fact, the only way my parents could keep my fingers out of the backyard pet ‘n bug cemetery was by emphasizing the importance of funerals in the process: a ceremony assuring that the buried were actually SUPPOSED TO STAY PUT (Note:…not my emphasis!). A process that, I reasoned, actually kept resurrection from happening. Because if resurrection happened every time, there obviously wouldn’t be enough room in the world. Without a funeral, Dead Things Walked (I figgered). So perhaps THAT is how an entire dead collection was amassed one Saturday while ‘on a walk’ with the BS (meaning, we walked HER. She chased when she could whilst we shrieked our way unsafely up the neighborhood streets at warp speed) during a rare coup: an entire nest of baby birds that had hit the ground earlier in the day. Thoughtfully placed on our fireplace mantel (…because I was old enough to know funerals and fire somehow were close companions) and with only a FEW hundred mourner ants in close attendance, it was actually a mystery to me how it got up there. Chalk one up to ‘resurrection’, even if the corpus delecti wasn’t actually MOVING (I checked often until Mom and Dad got home and the inevitable screaming began….)
(Neighbors got funeral invites to Diane’s Bird Burial the following year – and some adults even contributed the forbidden MATCHES for a proper ceremony! YEA!)
3. MouseCapade. I must’ve also been about 5 when Dad came upstairs complaining about Mice getting into his basement stuff. Now me: I figgered (and argued the case) that the dark, scary Basement was actually owned by the mice. And Squeako the Boogeyman, of course. We were just renting space there. So if they wanted to play House with some of Dad’s tax records … heck, why not: it was only unused paper (a concept neither Dad nor the IRS apparently appreciated…). With clear evidence of their paths across the top of the large square furnace that Dad had piled with sand (for insulation), he cleverly set out some mousetraps, carefully explaining to me JUST how they worked so somebody’s exploring fingers wouldn’t get snapped off. Poor Dad hadn’t accounted for The Horror Factor, which quickly set in when I realized that ‘SNAP’ was intended not to capture but to actually KILL the poor mousies. (A terrible, shocking revelation set in: my father was a MURDERER!) After I got over the horror (and was banished to my room for the evening after throwing open the back window and informing screaming to any potential listener that ‘DAD WAS PLOTTING MURDER’), I quickly devised a rescue plan that would quash any parental notions of Mouse Murder. Obviously Dad would not change his murderous ways and so, flashlight, marker pens and courage in hand (after all, SQUEEKO lived in the basement. We had to form a temporary TRUCE to get THIS job done), I snuck into the basement, stood on a stepstool, carefully ‘sprung’ each of the 5 mousetraps with a coat hanger, then creatively painted red ‘blood’ on each trap, cementing my future as a budding Picasso. Parental shock and awe the next day lead to my irrefutable explanation: OBVIOUSLY the Mice had ALL been victims and had dragged their bleeding corpses away to die somewhere in the bowels of the tax papers. Yes: it was a mystery to me exactly HOW this all evolved. I had two parents with shaking shoulders that day and I considered my rescue mission a complete success since no more mousetraps appeared and the precious tax paperwork was moved upstairs, leaving the basement – as was only PROPER – to any remaining Mice.
(…proving the cheese DOESN’T stand alone!)
4. Phone etiquette 101.
…I was self-taught in Phone Etiquette at quite an early age: “Hi, Is this SANTA?? No??” CLICK!
(…cause there’s only ONE PERSON IN THE WORLD worth talkin’ to when you’re a kid!)
Oh, I can think of LOTS more.
And actually, upon reflection …. it’s a mystery to me that my parents didn’t have me ‘taken care of’ decades ago!