My aunt and uncle owned a funeral home in Omaha, Nebraska. They belonged to a country club with a sparkly pool. Sometimes they vacationed in Europe. Our family vacationed on a lake in Iowa. We rented a two-room cabin with torn screens and questionable plumbing. We ran through the sprinklers to cool off in the humid Omaha summers.
Once or twice a summer my cousins would invite my siblings and I to their pool. Then we would go back to their house for lemonade and macaroons, fancy cookies they brought back from France. I heard my aunt telling my mother about Paris. My mother responded with her own stories about the three- story lake home we had rented with its own dock and pleasure boat. I cringed, knowing these tales were what my father would call “whoppers.” But I understood her motivation for telling them.
The next night, after the sloppy joes and potato salad were cleared away from the dinner table, my father let my mother have it. “Why did you tell my sister we stayed in a three- story lake house?” My mother was cornered, but not for long. “There was a basement, a first floor and an attic.”
My father was not amused. “A pleasure boat? And a personal dock?” My mother was momentarily stumped. “Well there were new plastic cushions in the motorboat and we did have the dock to ourselves when everyone else was out fishing.”
My father delivered the final blow. “You know what I mean. Those are whoppers. Lies. What are we teaching our kids?”
Several years ago at a family Christmas dinner my brother went around the table grilling everyone about what they were doing professionally. It felt less like a friendly conversation and more like being questioned by a relentless prosecutor. I hadn’t had much acting work that year and I squirmed in my seat, dreading the firing line.
When my turn came I said, “I worked on a wonderful project with Jessica Lange and Susan Sarandon; it was all about the feud between Bette Davis and Joan Crawford.” The name dropping of both current and golden age stars seemed to satisfy and even impress some of the family.
But my brother was not to be deterred. He whipped out his cell phone and in less time than it took to stab a piece of glazed ham, he said, “That’s a whopper. You didn’t really work with them. It was just a phone call. And we barely see your face.” “The project won several Emmys,” I huffed. “A whopper is a whopper, sis,” he retorted, sounding all the world exactly like my father.
“What Do You Think?”
My dear friend Suzy has suffered many losses and stresses during the pandemic. She let her hair grow out grey and it hung in a long mane down her back.
She showed up at my door the other day with it all cropped off. One side was almost crew cut length and the other was cut in diagonal wedges. Some strands were tipped with green dye. “I finally went back to the salon. I just needed to bust out. What do you think?” I was torn between whopperland and the love I have for her crazy vulnerability and courage.
Navigating the Ocean of “Truth”
Truth telling is complicated. Responding to what people claim is the truth is even more complicated. We are charged each day with navigating between what is honorable and what is cruel. It is part of what makes us human.
Kate Fuglei is an actress and singer who divides her time between Studio City and Brooklyn. She has appeared in over forty episodes of television, including most recently in one of the first episodes of STAR TREK/PICARD. She is a published author with two novels based on the lives of the physicist Enrico Fermi and the educator Maria Montessori. The greatest blessing in her life is her marriage to writer Ken LaZebnik and her two sons, Jack LaZebnik and Ben LaZebnik. They inspire her every single day.
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