In fourth grade I was on the front page of my town’s newspaper. It was kind of a big deal and it was the start of my modeling career.
But it was a big deal. It was also a big sham.
See, what happened was the local reporter/photographer (small town paper, folks) showed up to Mrs. Theur’s class one day asking for a few kids who had donated food for our November food drive because he wanted to take a picture and write up a short story about it. My hand flew up before I could even think, and I was asked to head to the front lobby to pose for a few shots with my fellow Dragons.
The only problem was I had not donated one single thing to the food drive. I hadn’t so much as mentioned it to my mom, hadn’t brought in one can or box of stuffing, and I had just told a big fat lie to a reporter so I could be on the front page of the paper for something I didn’t do.
Clearly, I wasn’t a smart child, because this lie wasn’t going to go unnoticed because my parents would know I didn’t bring in any food when they saw my fat face in the newspaper.
I lied for fame and fortune, and now I was going to be exposed.
When I got home that afternoon, I casually mentioned to my mom I had taken some cans from the pantry for the food drive and just forgot to tell her. She looked at me a little funny, because she knew this was something I wouldn’t have done without asking but she didn’t say much.
Later that night I threw in the detail about the reporter coming to school and taking my picture then abruptly left the room before anyone could ask any questions.
Be cool, Mary. BE COOL, as I slip out of the room…
The next week when the paper came out, there I was with my big fat liar face on the front page surrounded by innocent kids who probably really did bring in food for the food drive and didn’t sell their souls for five minutes of fame.
I felt a little guilty for the farce but mostly I felt proud I was obviously going to be rich and famous and maybe even get my crush Brian to be my boyfriend and stop using me to teach him how to braid friendship bracelets at recess.
Come to think of it, maybe Brian liked boys.
Fourth grade is really complicated.
Recently my mom was cleaning out an old school folder (“old school” meaning a folder from when I was in elementary school, not as in “cool, vintage folder”) she had kept for me and, in between report cards, projects, and random basketball team pictures, was the infamous front page photo of my pretend food drive participation. Of course my parents had saved it, their blessed daughter was in the paper. How were they to know I was a conniving liar who would do anything to get some media attention?
I think about that lie every Thanksgiving. Even without the newspaper clipping as a reminder, every year as school and neighborhood food drives start up, I remember my pretend food drive donation and drive my guilty little self to the store to fill up the donation boxes. I can’t say no to a food drive now, and I know it’s because I’m still trying to make amends for my fourth grade lie.
And that, my friends, is why I always do the food drives.