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My face didn’t freeze that way and other lies adults told

Burt’s Eye View

My face didn’t freeze that way.

My eyes didn’t stay crossed, either.

I tromped around for days trying to freeze my face into a snarling, cross-eyed dinosaur mask of terror, but all that happened was my jaw ached.

“No, really, it’s ugly,” my cousin Scott soothed, trying to cheer me up. “I’ve never seen a face more terrifying than yours.”

Scott was a good cousin that way. But mirrors showed the truth — grownups had lied to us again.

Why are grownups so cruel as to promise wondrous things that they knew would never happen?

As a playground full of second-grade boys, we snarled and growled around the monkey bars wearing the most grotesque expressions we could because the teacher told Jimmy that if he didn’t stop making that face, it would freeze that way.

After devoting an entire recess to our reshaping project, we asked the teacher if we were horrible, scary monsters. Her voice quaked as she said that we couldn’t be more terrible.

It was the nicest thing she said to us all year.

And it was a lie. All we saw in the classroom were the same old boring faces that we wore to school. Our faces never froze that way.

Grandpa barked at us kids to not sit that close to the TV, or not to watch it sideways while lying on the couch. He didn’t want our eyes falling out from ruining them.

What would he say if were alive today to see everyone scrolling through tiny screens held literally less than an arm’s length from our noses?

Which reminds me, earlier in my young life, grownups played a silly game called “I Got Your Nose.” I was only 3 without any schooling other than “Romper Room,” but even I could tell they held their own thumb. How dense were these big people?

I thought about spouting a bunch of lies right then and there, because grownups also said if you told a lie, your nose would grow like Pinocchio’s. Since they couldn’t tell a difference between a thumb and a nose, maybe it was their thumbs, not my nose, that would swell up and explode.

I never tested that theory because I couldn’t top the lies grownups already told.

One day when we were eating watermelon, cousin Marcella cautioned me against swallowing the seeds.

“That’s how babies are made,” she said. “When a mommy wants a baby, she swallows a watermelon seed, and a baby grows in her belly.” She knew this because a grownup told her that.

I went home crying. I didn’t want a baby growing in my belly. I was only 6. Plus, I wasn’t a girl.

“Oh, Sunshine,” Mom said. “You know babies don’t come from watermelon seeds. We already told you, the stork brings them.”

What really would grow in our stomachs was worms, if we ate raw cookie dough. Phew! I knew worms were a lot more useful than babies. I gobbled the cookie dough. No worms. Another grownup lie.

So if worms were in the dough, why weren’t they in the cookies?

“Oh, they don’t like the heat of the oven, so they crawl away.”

I rounded up fat earthworms big enough to see through the oven window so that I could watch them escape. They didn’t.

I sure am glad that Mom’s face didn’t freeze that way when she bit into a cookie. Maybe it was a good thing that the grownups lied.

• Meet Burton Cole Sept. 1, 2, 4 and 6 at The Vindicator tent at the Canfield Fair, where he will sign his humorous children’s novels. Contact him at burts eyeview@tribtoday.com or at www.burtonwcole.com.

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