Category Archives: Honesty

Only Child asks: Is honesty the best policy?

The teenage Only Child with her late mother

My late mother was a stickler for honesty. Unlike Gibbs on the NCIS TV series, who had his 10 rules for living written in a small notebook, Mom’s 10 rules were in her head, perhaps some buried in her subconscious. She couldn’t tolerate lies.

Some of the stories spanning out from this, could get complicated, sometimes funny, and sometimes leaving me at a disadvantage some way – but at least I was doing the right thing.

One that comes to mind is when one of my classmates who I hung around with was messing up in marking math exercises. We were in grade three and the teacher had us  pass our exercises to the person sitting in front of us for marking. My friend sat behind me so I got hers to mark. She had some questions wrong and I marked them with an X. When she got the exercise back she changed he X to a tic.

That really ticked me off. But I was too shy then to say anything to the teacher. So I told Mom.

Her solution was for mr to tell the teacher. Mom even offered a 25 cent reward if I did this. I sold my friend out for 25 cents. But, hey, I told the truth.

However, when Mom learned that this same friend and I were cutting through the laneway behind houses and shops to come home from school, she told me I couldn’t do this because it wasn’t safe. But I was more afraid of getting the ire of this friend again, so I followed her like the proverbial Pied Piper, through the alleyway. What the heck. Nothing looked bad. The most menacing thing we saw was a man unloading food from a truck for the IGA store.

When I returned home from school Mom asked, “Did you go through the alley?”

“No,” I replied. And didn’t feel good about it.

Not so with sneaking out the back and dangerous way over to the park the girl gang I hung around with played in. Mom had definitely said I couldn’t take the dangerous route. I was supposed to go the long and boring way along the street and cross the busy street intersection at the lights, then continue walking along the sidewalk to the park.

Nope. I followed the ringleader (my math marker cheating friend) and the others to the end of my street to the dead end street and over to the steep steps down to dangerous, curving and busy Don Mills Road. And this was in the late 1950s before the Don Valley Parkway was built nearby with a major exit from Don Mills Road just a bit north of where we landed on the road. There were no sidewalks there, but if we did continue further south, sidewalks were on the part of Don Mills Road close to the busy intersection. But the shorter back way into the park was before that on the other side of the road. So we waited for a small break in traffic and darted quickly across to the other side. We always made it there safely.

I never told Mom; but she never asked on this one.

Looking back, except for a few of these diversions I told the truth – or more often kept my mouth shut as I was shy.

Fast forward too many years to now in the 21st. century. Not a big truthful world. There are scams, frauds, lies, etc. etc. happening non-stop everywhere. You know who in the States is a master at this. It is hard to think that anyone is honest anymore.

However, I have met some honest people, people who do their best to tell the truth. Which is my policy now, with more complications. For one thing, I am no longer shy and I can be blunt and sarcastic when truthful. Sometimes words seem to come out of my mouth without my mind connecting first. This ties in with my sense of justice versus injustice and people being inconsiderate and doing the wrong thing, often making the situation unsafe. For example if I see someone acting badly, I often just chastise them…in public.

One of my biggest peeves is people who block the subway stairs just so they can stand there and muck around with their digital device. They stand at the top of the stairs. They stand at the bottom of the stairs; and they stand partway down (or up?) the stairs, oblivious of anyone going up or down the stairs.

So, there I come, senior citizen with bad feet and a bad left eye. I’m hanging onto the railing and carefully looking down at the steps and what is or isn’t ahead.

“You’re blocking the way,” I say to the person in front of me. Are his feet glued to the step?

He turns around and we get into a heated discussion.

“I’m a senior and I have to hang onto the railing and not have to go around anyone,” I say.

“There is another railing over there.” He points to the other side of the steps.

“Yes, but that is for people coming up the stairs to hang onto.”

And so it goes back and forth a bit. But he does move out of the way. (I can be persistent as well as honest and blunt). Afterwards I wonder what would happen to him or others who do the same in rush hour when people are zooming up and down the stairs and assume everyone else is doing the same. What if someone accidentally pushed against the digital device fanatic and the person fell? Seems like a hard lesson to learn for being stupid and inconsiderate.

So, I don’t feel bad about being honest telling these digital menaces off.

But I try to use another of my mom’s characteristics, one she may have had difficulty using – being diplomatic. You can’t always be bluntly honest. Sometimes using some diplomacy and tact can go a long way.

I am also working on going up to people I see doing some good and complimenting them. For example, when I was at the CNE in August, the young woman (probably a student doing a summer job) who was cleaning the Ladies Room was doing an excellent job and going about it quietly without getting in anybody’s way. When she was cleaning the sinks, I walked up to her.

“Excuse me,” I said.

She turned around and looked at me.

“You’re doing a good job,” I said. “I know it must be tiresome.”

“Thank you,” she said.

Honesty has many ways to present. Unfortunately so does dishonesty.

What do you think?

Sharon

Only Child Writes

 

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Filed under 1950s, Ethics, Honesty, Learning Experience, Mother and Child, Only child, Seniors

Only Child Remembers Mom

Only Child's Mother

My mom’s birthday is November 9. If she was still alive she would be 104. But she died at 63. Too young to die. Of course, I’m going to say that because I’m heading into that age territory later this year, so…

But the age and the date have got me thinking more about Mom. A psychic friend once told me she could sense her spirit’s presence in my house. And I have felt it, not inside the house I grew up in when I re-visited it, but afterwards at the nearby park where my friends and I used to play. I remember Mom’s weird  sense of honesty. In my memoir I have a chapter called “Mom’s Ten Rules of Honesty.” The chapter begins with

“Eat your dessert or the police will come and get you,” Mom says. She points to the front door and nods her head like I better do it or else the Black Maria will roll up the driveway and scoop me up into its dark interior.

I stare down at my bowl. Stewed huckleberries and apples. Black smashed berries and their dark juice seep through the apples. Yuck. Smothering the stew in vanilla ice cream can’t hide the taste of huckleberries, a taste that sits in the middle between sweet and bitter. But Mom insists on growing these strange berries in her garden.

“Sharon, did you hear me?” Mom gets up from the kitchen table, scurries into the living room and stares out the front window. “Oh, I can see a police car coming up the street; it’s turning into the driveway.”

I start to shovel the mixture down my throat. Then I jump up and take my turn at the living room window. Down the street, Mare’s father cuts his front lawn; Mrs. Armstrong sits on her front veranda, with her collie dog at her feet, and a couple of finned cars cruise up the road towards the dead-end street. Our driveway at 139 lolls in its usual empty state. When I finally get the nerve to look straight down at the veranda outside the window, all I see are the two Muskoka chairs – vacant.

Such was my mother’s twist of the truth. My legacy is rich with the fallout from my mother’s Rules of Honesty. She had a skewed sense of right and wrong. According to Mom, I had to tell it all as it actually happened, but she could tailor her honesty according to what she thought suitable for little ears to hear or what she wanted little people to do. Or she could stretch the truth by throwing in a little imagination. I compare it to a ruler, each inch (or centimetre, depending on your generation) from one to 10 being the equivalent of one of Mom’s Rules of Honesty to live life. The higher the rule or ruler number doesn’t necessarily mean the more significant the rule.

(Excerpted from You Can Go Home – Deconstructing the Demons, copyright 2011 Sharon Crawford).

To this day a strong sense of honesty, integrity and even justice stays with me. It is important that everyone is treated fairly and that covers the good and bad of each person. I’ve been taken to task for going after someone who has treated me wrongly or unfairly but I believe that if someone messes up they need to be held responsible. Often this means I confront the person – and that’s what I get the flak for. However, I also do the flip side of the coin and try to show my gratitude for someone who has helped me or is doing something good. An example of the latter is one of the members of my East End Writers’ Group who decided to help me with the publicity for our 10th anniversary celebration and did. Now, she is having a book launch for her memoir and I am doing my part to promote it and work it out so I can get to it (and the other book launch a few hours earlier the same day).

In case you are interested her name is Susan Siddeley and her book Home First: a memoir in voices is being launched Sunday, November 13, 4.30 p.m. at at The Flying Beaver Pubaret, 488 Parliament Street,  (just north of Carlton St. and south of Aberdeen). in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. For more information on Susan and the wonderful writers’ retreats she holds in Chile check out her blog at http://losparronales.blogspot.com/.

Do I follow my ethical criteria all of the time? No. Was my mother perfect? No. But as I write near the end of this same chapter in my memoir…

Mother’s honesty didn’t just encompass telling the truth; it covered people’s basic integrity and how they dealt with the screw-ups, bad times and bad luck that always pop up in life. Nothing is certain except taxes and death, but the trick is to wind yourself through the days, months and years until you die – without falling into the muddy waters.

(Excerpted from You Can Go Home – Deconstructing the Demons, copyright 2011 Sharon Crawford).

Cheers.

Sharon Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Book launch, Death and Dying, East End Writers' Group, Home first memoir, Honesty, Integrity, Life learning, Mother dying, Only child, Only child memoir, Responsibility, Sharon Crawford, Susan Siddeley