When I was three, my family lived on an army base in middle-of-nowhere, Northern California. One sunny afternoon, I awoke from a nap to notice my rocking horse, Pokey, had broken free of his rein which was now lying on the floor. When I picked it up, I quickly realized Pokey’s rope was actually a really ticked off rattle snake. I screamed bloody murder, and Daddy and his MP buddies came to the rescue. Several hours later I was licking barbequed rattle snake off my fingers. And it really did taste just like chicken. Or so I thought.
So, remember the old game of telephone where you sit around cross-legged in a circle with a dozen of your closest friends and whisper an innocuous tidbit of information round the room to see how fantastical it comes out on the other side? Jenny tells Amy, “My favorite fruit is peaches” and seven people later Jessica hilariously spits out, “Jenny kissed Jason behind the bleachers!” (True story. Jenny got around).
Well I’ve started to realize I’ve been playing the game of telephone for years all by myself. Apparently, as I‘ve now been corrected by my very amused mother, three year old Beth whispered “you touched a snake and then had chicken for dinner,” and now thirty-one year old Beth has been mistakenly telling the (far more awesome) story above her entire life. While the tale thankfully stemmed from a grain of reality, it makes me wonder how many of mine and my friends’ stories have been unconsciously “telephoned.”
If we’ve told it a thousand times, our bigger than life, go-to, crowd-pleasing stories are probably infused with a little bit of rogue “whisper.” Over time, the car you collided with got faster, the flowers he sent got bigger, and the chicken you were eating morphed into rattle snake. Years later the story has become a cocktail of what happened, what happened to your best friend’s second cousin, and what happened in an episode of Who’s the Boss.
While I’m a little disappointed to learn I’ve never eaten rattle snake, my memory of the day hasn’t changed and my three-year old self was still a bad-ass for picking up a snake at all. Yet I’m reluctant to attempt to regale my family with any more of my childhood tales or I may find out that my aunt Nancy didn’t play bingo with Mr. Belvedere, or that I didn’t hop around Australia with kangaroos, or that I never had a friend named Jenny.