I had a picture of my mom in a little glass and metal frame. One day it fell on the floor behind the bookcase in my bedroom and broke. I freaked out. I don't really know how it came up that I would tell her that I didn't know what happened to it, because it seems strange for her to have even noticed it missing. All I knew was that I had been party to an accident and I didn't even want to think about what might happen if I got in trouble because ... well ... because I hadn't really gotten in trouble before.
I was probably four or five years old. I mean, sure, I had done stuff to get yelled at before. I was a kid after all. But I had never, up to that point, done anything that I felt would have warranted a punishment.
Once again, this was a picture of my mom in a little glass and metal frame. It was mine. I wasn't holding on to it for her. It wasn't pilfered from anywhere. I owned it and I broke it. And that was enough to make me go simply out-of-this-world crazy paranoid.
If I let myself go I can really relive the moment when I realized what I had done. I can be there in that minute or two when I nervously inched my bookcase slowly forward and away from the clown and circus wallpaper in my bedroom, a foot crammed in sideways on the bottom and a pair of hands clasped on top of each other in the middle. I can picture being half as tall as the five foot piece of furniture that I was moving. I can sense the impressive tightness from the rough back of the heavy case against one side of my forearm and the cold wall against the other. I can hear the way the frame sounded when I picked it up even before I could see it. And I can feel again how terrified I became to hear the pieces of glass move ever so slightly against each other as I brought it out from between that dark, dusty crevice--a tight, chirp and then a small "plink" on the floor directly below.
I, Frederick Alexander Johnson, was in trouble.
I hid the picture behind a pile of stuff (I had a lot of stuff in my room as a kid) and I left it there and went up to my mom and gave her a big hug. She smiled as she always did and told me she loved me.
Meanwhile, I had done something that I was ashamed no matter wether or not I really did it. I was hiding the evidence away from her and from me and from anyone who care to ask me, "Hey, Fred. Where is that great picture of your mother that was on your bookcase?", which would never happen anyway.
I knew I couldn't fix the problem myself. I didn't have any money or any way to get to a store on my own to buy a new frame if I did. I couldn't glue the pieces back together. And I couldn't take another picture out of one of the frames from any one of the other pictures in the house. And every day I came home and went into my room and looked at that empty space in my bookcase and my breath tightened just a little bit. And each time I did that my glance would inadvertently drift over to the pile of stuff which hid the missing photo. It was all there: the evidence, the coverup, the perpetrator, and the guilt.
I can't remember how long it went on like that. My mother, of course, didn't ask me about the picture. If I didn't want to display it--I'm sure she reasoned--I didn't have to. It was a nice photo, but it was one of many. To her it wasn't much more than just the way I chose to decorate my room.
But finally one day I remember picking up that broken picture and running--two barking dogs following--into her room.
It was time to confess.
I was crying when I held it out in front of her with both hands and told her that--through no fault of my own--it had just fallen off of the bookcase, and how sorry I was, and how it would never ... *sob* ... happen ... *sob* ... again.
And I cried, and I cried, and I cried ... as I lied, and I lied, and I lied.
Because of course it hadn't just fallen off the bookcase. It had been broken for days at least. But I couldn't confess the main issue without covering up another one.
And she brought me close to her with one arm as she carefully and slowly placed the inexpensive frame on her bureau with the other and she rubbed my back gently and told me not to worry.
"It's okay, sweetheart," she said. "We'll get a new frame for it. I'm just glad you didn't hurt yourself when it broke."
And with that I was given my first forgiveness--at least that I can remember anyway.
It felt good to get it off my chest.
It was so nice to look her in the eyes and tell her how sorry I was that I had done something wrong.
It didn't matter that the manner that I confessed propagated its own set of lies.
It didn't matter that it made no sense to cover up something that wasn't my fault.
It hadn't occurred to me that she wouldn't be mad at me in the first place--that she would be worried more about my well-being than a ten cent pane of glass.
And when I look back on it now I guess I felt that, at the time, by breaking the frame which held a picture of my mother that I was somehow hurting her. I had attached some special power to the act of damage to her image.
It would take thirty years or more for me to learn that when you lie about even the smallest thing it hurts you more than the person you tell it to.
Forgiveness can come from those who you can see and hear and feel. It can come from a voice other than your own and often does.
But if you're the last one standing at any time in any place for as long and as far as you can walk, drive, fly, swim, run, dig, or fall, then you better be damn well capable of forgiving yourself.
It's not as easy as it sounds but not much in this world ever is, that much is certainly true.
Thanks for reading.