In recent years, I’ve had to revise my view that I am a genius.
I have been aided in this by most of my friends and practically all my family. The one exception was my mother, who, God rest her soul, stoutly insisted all her years that I was super smart. Far as I know, I was the only family member who never argued with her.
I believed her for a long time simply because there seemed to be ample evidence for her opinion.
For example, for two years I was able to convince my little friends two or three times a year that I was having a birthday which meant, of course, there had to be a birthday party, too. There was nothing slack about my friends, because they were able to convince their mothers to buy presents to bring to each party.
This scam was going really well until one of the sharper mothers remarked to my mother at a Ladies Aid meeting that Eddie seemed to have been the product of multiple births. That particular mother was a nurse and realized that her theory was most unlikely. There was an investigation and my annual multiple birthday parties came to an abrupt end. All I was getting, anyway, was exercise books and pencils with no “rubbers.”
Time to turn my genius to other pursuits.
Those of you in my age group — late 30s, early 40s — will remember that we all had to be in Sunday school on Sunday afternoons. At the time, we thought the purpose of that was to fill our heads with religious knowledge and our hearts with religious truth.
Many years later, we realized it was practically impossible to hear the squeaking of bedsprings while we were reciting the catechism in church.
You may remember, too, that every mother’s son of us had to have learned a Bible verse for each Sunday school session and be ready to recite it when called upon by the Simon LeGree superintendent.
They never bothered to ask for anything specific, such as something from St. Matthew or Revelation, or even the Old Testament or the New.
Even so, “Jesus wept” only lasted so long before you were asked to expand upon your biblical knowledge and research.
The girls seemed to have no problem with this, but the boys were a different chapter and verse. Even the most diligent, who under the hasty coaching of their parents while they were being shooed out the door might actually learn something, usually had it completely forgotten by the time they got to the church door.
I observed this phenomenon and decided I could help.
Accordingly, I would wait at the church with a supply of Bible verses for each young biblical scholar in need. Each one had his own separate verse, too.
Was my amazing knowledge of the scriptures due to the fact that I was a minister’s son? That would have been expected, of course. Unfortunately, my clerical parentage had nothing to do with it. Natural genius all the way.
I manufactured Bible verses the way Kellogg’s makes corn flakes. It was pitifully easy.
And the Lord said unto Moses, come forth.
And the Lord said unto Moses, get thee behind me Satan.
And the Lord said unto Moses, kill thee the fatted calf.
Sunday school teachers must have thought it to be the veriest blasphemy to question anything the Lord had to say to Moses, because they never did.
And the other boys thought it was well worth a nickel a verse to avoid being bawled out in front of the girls.
Most weeks, I was able to make enough off religion to buy a bottle of Pepsi and a square for at least one recess.
As with most successful entrepreneurs, however, I wasn’t real popular with less creative minds.
As I said at the beginning, in later years I’ve had to revise my admittedly exalted view that I was of genius turn of mind. Even my children will hark back to the days when they used to lend me money to bankroll that particular sin. The promise was that they would share in the profits of the evening for the small risk of losing a few cents. They will swear to you that they lost considerably more than they ever gained.
One of my daughters, when she was in university, nailed me with this one day.
“I used to think you were a genius, Dad, but since I’ve been in university I’ve met several certified geniuses and, thank God, you don’t come close.”
I guess universities have changed. I can remember meeting only one student who was generally thought of as a genius and he got royally peed off one day because I was getting better marks than he was. Even challenged the professor about it in front of the whole class, who responded mildly, “I’m sorry, Mr. Ferguson, but he knows more than you do.”
I have no doubt but that he was responding to that fellow’s arrogance as much as anything, but I’ve loved that little man ever since.
Still, I have no doubt that daughter was right. Geniuses in her day were a dime a dozen.
The ultimate reason I have to give up my fantasy of being a genius is that I’m not a member of Mensa, the organization for which you have to have an IQ equal to the number of chickens KFC sends annually to the happy clucking grounds.
It isn’t that I haven’t applied. My first application was returned with a note saying that they were not the right people to be sending it to. It was signed, “Manager in charge of sales, Walmart.” Don’t know how that happened, but it made me rethink the whole idea.
Finally, I completed another application very carefully, and made sure the envelope was correctly addressed. Before long I received a manila envelope marked “Do Not Bend — photograph enclosed.” Inside was a picture of several people laughing uproariously.
It was signed “Mensa Staff.”
Ed Smith is an author who lives in Springdale. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.