A legend in his own mind

My son is engaging in massive revisionist history.

I started noticing it a few months ago. He’d retell stories about his early childhood depicting himself as significantly cooler and more cognizant. I’m not sure he even remembers the actual events as much as our retelling the tales over the years.

For example, he and his best friend figured out how to use the preschool teeter-totter as a catapult for woodchips, accidentally launching them onto unsuspecting bystanders. He got in trouble for it, of course, although the preschool director was sort of impressed with their ingenuity. His father and I used the story at a private school interview as an example of our son’s creativity. I think they wanted something more artsy. He didn’t get in.

He was four at most. I am sure that a) the action wasn’t premeditated, and b) he doesn’t remember it. Now, when he tells the story, he and his friend plotted this particular prank and lured specific individuals to stand in a certain spot so they could be the beneficiary of my son and his friend’s machinations. He was a crafty little devil. Not. He was crushed he’d done something wrong. He thought they’d go straight up, not sail across the playground.

When he was seven, he used to build elaborate light sabers out of paper. It was the peak period of his Star Wars obsession. He and about 100 other boys at his school. He had so many kids asking for one, he set up a production line during indoor recess, training apprentices in the art of saber making. It lasted a day. The school felt it wasn’t a viable business proposition. They also rationed his paper supply.

Now, with his advanced knowledge of video game weaponry, he insists he was making AK-47’s and rocket launchers. I know this is not true, although he did put a tank in his hand-drawn family picture because he said we were boring. It was a hit at parent night.

I try not to be too hard on him, however. How many of us would like to reconstruct our past? We’ve moved a few times in the last fifteen years. How often have I reinvented myself, casting away pieces that no longer serve me while embracing others, grateful for a periodic clean slate? There aren’t many witnesses present to correct the tale, or to fill in the ones I choose not to tell.

I guess there’s something to be said for revisionist history. It works well as long as you don’t put anything in writing… Damn. Too late now.

Words by J. B. Everett

Photograph by Stefan © 2010 Creative Commons