1. Yeah, I shouldn't have let you see The Shining just because your friend Lana had seen it. Looking back, that was a bad call.

2. Have to say, I'm sorry for that time I told you that falconry was more of a hobby than a job. I should have said, "You can be anything you want to be when you grow up, princess." Just because I'm ignorant of the world of falconry is no reason to snuff out a young person's dreams, especially after my own father so cruelly mocked my childhood dreams of becoming a rodeo clown.

3. I'd throw a game of Candy Land, take a dive in Go Fish, but I drew the line at Monopoly. I told myself at the time that an unfiltered introduction to the ruthless machinery of capitalism would prepare you for the future, that miserable dance of profit, loss and bad luck. In the fullness of time, I see that I was constitutionally unable to let someone else win at Monopoly. So, sorry for being blind to the true reasons for my behavior.

4. Sorry, too, for that time we were in that restaurant, waiting too long for menus, and I said, "Let's play my favorite game, Racism or Bad Service?" and for a long time after, whenever we went out to eat you'd say, "Let's play Racism or Bad Service!" Because after all, I had said it was my favorite game. But it really isn't.

5. That time your stepmom dug up her childhood rag doll and I insinuated that it was an instrument of Satan. It had lost one eye, the left arm terminated at the elbow, and it was soiled from decades in the basement. I made a crack that it was a demon doll, and recounted the plots of famous Twilight Zone episodes, and later I snuck into your room and planted it under your pillow so that when I tucked you into bed I could point at it and say, "How did that get in here???" You didn't sleep all night, but the joke was on me the next day when I discovered the rag doll sitting in my office, in my ergonomic chair, its faded smile full of menace. You denied putting it there, and I became convinced the doll was acting under the orders of a malevolent force. Then, it was my turn for sleepless nights. Your stepmom "took care of it" the next day, but now at odd moments I think about how angry it must be, and wonder when it will return to enact its terrible revenge. Anyway, sorry for scaring you.

6. When you asked why I was crying at the end of that Pixar movie, I should have said, "Pixar movies always call up a complicated nexus of emotions in me, making me recall ancient hurts and losses that that have gradually lost their ability to sting ever since I have been blessed by your appearance in my life." I should have said that instead of telling you that "I got some butter substitute in my eye" from our tub of popcorn. I will strive to be more honest in the future.

The Underground Railroad Colson Whitehead is author of the newest Oprah Book Club selection, The Underground Railroad. Readers can get a free preview here.


Next Story