This is the story of how I learned a valuable lesson about truth, family, and loyalty. It happened when I was very young.
It was summer, and Charlie and I were playing on the small stretch of curb between our two houses. We were playing with matchbox cars, running them all over the rough terrain of the concrete sidewalk and crumbling asphalt of the road.
“This one is my favorite,” I said, holding up a sporty-looking car. It was completely silver, except for the words “Silver One” written in black letters proudly on the hood.
Charlie took the car in his hands and looked at it. Scrunching up his eyes slightly, he read the hood of the car: “Silver Oh-nee” (/ōn-nē/), he said.
“No,” I replied, “It says Silver One” (/wən/).
“Nuh uh,” he said, “I know how to read. That says oh-nee” (/ōn-nē/).
“No,” I insisted, “It says one” (/wən/).
After a slight hesitation, Charlie stood up. “Let’s go ask my brother!”
I was an only child, but Charlie had several older brothers, the youngest of which was already several years older than we were. I had rarely been inside Charlies house, and I did not like his older brothers. Like most older children, I found them to be wild, chaotic, and unpredictable. Teenagers especially were like wild and dangerous animals to me, saying things that made no sense and doing the unpredictable.
But how could I say no?
“OK,” I said, and we marched into Charlie’s house.
We found Charlie’s older brother standing at the counter in the kitchen. Charlie hands him the matchbox car, and says, “What does this say? I think it says oh-nee (/ōn-nē/) and he,” and with this Charlie pointed an accusing finger at me, “thinks it says one (/wən/)!”
Charlie’s older brother looked at me, looked back at his little brother, and looked at me again. Did he look a little sad? Or did he look annoyed? I was too young, and too intimidated by my strange surroundings to be able to tell. But there was a silence that seemed to take forever.
Then: “You’re right,” he said to his little brother, “it says oh-nee (/ōn-nē/).”
I left the house, red-faced and warm with embarrassment.
That’s when I learned that loyalty is—for some people—more important than truth.