The Underpants Gnomes and Me
Moss Piglet February 2023
Myths loomed large when we were kids. Not ancient ones. Family myths. I suppose all
families had them. My best friend Patti’s mother maintained that she came from aristocracy. She
often fantasized out loud about a distant cousin arriving to bestow buckets of money upon her.
Every night Patti’s parents sat on the couch watching the news, smoking cigarettes—he
unfiltered Lucky Strikes, she mentholated Kools. They poured golden cooking sherry from a
gallon jug into etched, lead crystal wine glasses. They ate TV dinners on metal, fold-up
tables—Salisbury steak, mashed potatoes, green beans and a tiny square of hot apple crisp.
Cousin Cyrus, Archibald, Maximillian, or some other mythical cousin never did show up.
In my family, myths ranged from fanciful and benign to outrageous. We considered them
irrefutable truths even though we knew that more often than not, one of us made them up. A
story might start out as a tiny lie for entertainment. Or we’d be angry or jealous. Whatever the
genesis, once uttered they became real.
My brothers told me to watch out, there was quicksand all around. Since we lived on an
island, there was sand everywhere. It was certainly plausible to me that some of it must be quick.
I never knew when I might inadvertently step in some. A constant fear.
My sister was a surviving twin, her wombmate having become nonviable when it was
barely an embryo. Ultrasound revealed its existence and its demise. Naturally, we embellished
that story. We said she ate her twin. Called her a real-life chimera, and not one to be trifled with.
If she’d eat her twin, goodness knows what she might do to one of us.
My sister retaliated by convincing me I was adopted. She said I was a foundling. I
assumed she was right. With my green eyes, pale skin and blonde hair I didn’t resemble my
dark-haired, brown-eyed siblings. My mother assured me that she was there when I was born,
having carried me for nine months. I figured Mom lied.
My father had a good friend, a man I loved and called Uncle, who always brought me
gifts when he came to visit. My siblings, jealous that only I, the little one, got presents, told me
he was a mafia hit man. Oddly enough, it didn’t make me fear him. I simply shrugged, said that’s
cool, and I meant it.
The biggest myth of all was the one I concocted myself. We get to be kids until we’re
older. Then we turn into grownups and mysteriously get money, cars, houses, spouses and all the
stuff grownups seem to have. Lacking a plan, I never knew quite how that would happen.
I’m reminded of the underpants gnomes on South Park. They were stealing underpants
like crazy from everyone in the small Colorado town. Their plan went like this:
Phase one: Collect underpants
Phase two: ?
Phase three: Profit
The Underpants Gnomes were iconic. We watched the episode often, thought it was
hysterically funny. What I hadn’t realized was that I was just like them. My plan went like this:
Phase one: Be a kid, go to school, do stuff, become a grown-up
Phase two: ?
Phase three: Profit
It still does.
Originally published in Moss Piglet, February 2023
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