I have become an urban legend. Not like the vanishing hitchhiker or the hook in the side of the car door or even Paul Bunyan. But I still find it a bit unsettling.
Every year, at my school, the fourth-graders celebrate Gold Rush Days with a hunt for gold-sprayed pebbles as part of the fun. Lots of the tiny gold-ish bits remain scattered in the dirt and grass for months after.
At least four years ago, one industrious young lad brought me a handful of the bits, saying, with wide, innocent eyes, “Here Mrs. Gillette! I found this gold for you.”
It seemed a sweet gesture. Not realizing how much of this “gold” was still out in the dirt, I rewarded this generosity with a piece of candy. Sometimes I can be so shortsighted. Think Pandora’s box.
The next thing I knew, I had a steady stream of bright-eyed underclassmen rolling into the library with handfuls of dirty, sticky, not-very-gold pebbles, asking to trade it for candy. I held firm and refused them all, and presumed that was the end of it.
Of course it happened again the next year, and once again, I sent them all packing with no candy for their trouble. Then last year, when it happened yet again, I gave each bearer of gold a thorough lecture asking that they tell all their friends that it was not true. Mrs. Gillette does not, will not, shall never trade candy for fake gold.
I’m sure there is a life lesson being taught here, or perhaps it is God chuckling that I am being inundated with fool’s gold. Nevertheless, I did my very best to quash the rumor and spread the word. No candy for gold. Tell your friends.
Apparently, youngsters under 10 would prefer not to spread bad news. Or perhaps it has become something like snipe hunting, meant to haze the younger, more gullible kids, sending them off digging in the dirt for ratty bits of pseudo-gold. Because no sooner had Gold Rush Days ended, than a hopeful child asked the same question.
My jaw just dropped that this goofy story had been resuscitated. I told the child that it was very, very untrue and explained how the rumor got started. I asked that she spread the word to one and all. Not know whether to laugh or cry, I told the teachers the story and asked that they make an announcement to their classes. I sent a mass e-mail, begging for help.
It made no difference. The next day, a dozen students marched into the library with pockets full of this year’s fake nuggets.
“We heard that you give candy for this gold,” each one said.
I had to break their cute little hearts every time. I wanted to give them all candy for being so adorable and gullible, but that would have further fed the rumor that won’t die.
I hope things will simmer down once the rumor-passers graduate from sixth grade, but never underestimate a slightly spiteful older sibling, who may well pass it on for its embarrassment purposes.
Or maybe we can replace the gold standard with Pixie Stix.
Jean Gillette is a freelance writer worth her weight in fake gold. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.