Family folklore / by Susie Lubell

You know that I actually remember my mom trying to teach me to tie my shoes when I was five years old and becoming totally fed up with me because I insisted on doing it myself and wanted nothing to do with her instruction. And if that meant tying the whole goddamned shoelace around my head, well that's what I was going to do. Man I was annoying. But I did get it, that night in fact. And I got it by myself. And my mom probably poured herself a glass of wine and said to hell with you girlie. Go barefoot for all I care.

That's my memory of it anyway. I can picture the exact place it all went down. On the floor of the family room, about two feet from the television. And likely an episode of The Brady Bunch was on. Those annoying bastards. 

But memory is a little unreliable isn't it. There's a long-running story in my family that I tried to kill my mother when I was three. I was PISSED about something or other so I put an empty sand bucket in the middle of the kitchen floor, covered it with a dish towel and put a note on top that said "stp in". I "hid" the bucket with the dish rag but then to be sure she didn't miss my target, I wrote explicit instructions to ensure her demise. Can you say BAD SEED?

But when I think about it now, was I really writing sentences at age three? Was I maybe five? Did I even write that note? My mom is somewhat of a hoarder, at least when it comes to letters and email, but that one's not in the pile. Did we make it up as further proof that I was a giant pain in the ass? A misunderstood toddler? A bad speller? Hard to say.

My husband has a similar "folktale" from his youth. He claims to remember learning how to ride a bike when he was three. A two-wheeler. And that the guy who invented those giant Crayola Crayon coin banks taught him on a farm in Israel (that part's actually true and the guy became a trillionaire). But three? Come on! Our daughter, the repository of his genetic code, is nearly 2.5 and still can't pedal a trike. So what' the likelihood that he was free-wheeling at age three? Slim Jim. But we have these stories in our heads and we sometimes even use them as a benchmark for our own kids. My husband was actually getting annoyed at our four-year-old because he wasn't super gung-ho about riding a two-wheeler. And neither of our kids has intentionally tried to kill us yet so they must be delayed! It's probably not the best measuring stick. I'm sure our kids will have the same conversations with their spouses. Why can't he dismantle his cell phone? I was doing that when I was three!