“You run. You dive. You hit the bump and take a dive.” This was the theme of the Crocodile Mile slip-and-slide toy that was popular in the ’90s. Our quiet neighborhood was no exception. A new family had recently moved into our sagebrush community. There were not very many kids out were we lived. We were in the city limits, but it felt more like the county with dirt roads and no sidewalks. At some point, a couple more families with school-aged children crashed the place. One of these families was the first around us to get the Super Crocodile Mile.
This was our territory. We built the bicycle trails. We had first dibs on scavenging the golf course ponds for stray golf balls and setting up shop on the corner to hawk them for 10 cents apiece. We could get a quarter if they were in really good shape. One time on a trip around our big circle block, my best friend and I decided to see if our new city boy neighbors were home. No one answered the front door. We trotted around the house to see if they were in the backyard. They were not there. Their Super Crocodile Mile was set up and we noticed it was slightly deflated. Upon some investigation, we discovered a pinprick hole was the cause of the air leak.
What happened next I cannot fully explain other than we had a slight bit of mischievousness for these guys and their wonderful new toy. We used a stick and made sure the small hole became a much larger one. I knew it was naughty and justified the act by thinking I would not have done it if there was not already a leak. I cannot fully remember how mom became suspicious of our actions. I am sure the three moms had a conversation at some point. That’s what moms do.
There were just a couple of cardinal rules in our home growing up. Mom would not tolerate us telling a lie or climbing on her furniture. Never try jumping over her couch. That’s it. If you could follow those two simple rules, Mom showed more patience and understanding than anyone I know. You see, this was my real crocodile dilemma. I have never been able to lie to my mom. As much I tried to tell Mom that I did not have anything to do with the neighbor’s ruined crocodile toy, I was doomed from the start. Mom always knew whether I was telling the truth and any time I tested it, I failed. I understood how much integrity meant to Mom and there could never be a greater disappointment to her. Because I believed the importance of this virtue, I could not deceive it.
We rode our bikes into town to the PayLess Drug Store. I distinctly remember my friend hauling in his big jug of coins and dumping them on the counter for his half of the purchase. We left the store with the shiny new box we were there to buy and devised a plan to deliver it on our ride home. We knocked on the door and their mom answered. We thought if we were buying them a new Crocodile Mile, we were right to ask them to give us the old one in return. The one we were replacing was totally fixable and we had just handed them a brand new one. A little patch job and that baby would have been back in business. We left empty handed and disappointed our request was denied.
As we approach Mother’s Day, my gratitude is infinite for a mother that taught by example that being honest matters. What awesome timing this week that we also celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week and National Nurses Week. Mothers are our ultimate teachers and nurtures. Teachers and nurses that exhibit a mother’s standard of care are the ones that leave an indelible impact for good on the lives of those around them.
My crocodile tears from that hard lesson many years ago now serve only as a reminder of the love of a mother and the importance of integrity and candor. While another testament to Mom’s love and forgiveness, the story of the red nail polish and my painting her new white couches are best saved for another day.
Dustin Manwaring is a business and estate planning attorney in Pocatello and served in the Idaho Legislature from 2016-2018.