I never thought about it really. It was just a weight that I carried around , as if ,for all the world that is was a part of me and although it still felt heavy and cumbersome, it was something I accepted naturally, like the way the normal flow of life can sometimes appear to be. It was something I grew up with for years, the great Irish enigma. In case you didn't guess, I'm talking about guilt here, with a captial, underlined G. It was part of my upbringing. Was accepted as a necessary and essential element that I, as an Irish person, was expected to lug around. But what was it? This Guilt trip? I can honestly admit that I don't really know. And honestly, I was never really aware of it because wallowing and feeling sorry for yourself and not feeling proud and always looking back and standing in the shadows is a great part of being Irish and so what you don't know you really don't miss. But now that Valentines Day is fast approaching I have started to give my thoughts to my loved one of the last twenty five years for he has no Guilt in his system. As a matter of fact he lives in a Guilt Free Zone. I admire this greatly and pondering can be liable to keep me up nights.
For a start, he grew up in California. I grew up in small Irish rural towns for the most part.
As a kid he wore sandals all year round. I wore itchy tights and brown leather shoes for eight months of the year. He played golf in Carmel. I played hockey in a miserable hockey pitch frozen to death,while I dreamed of sunshine. I went to Mass. He ate Tacos. He went to a wonderful mixed boys and girls school with zero religion. I went to a convent with nuns who covered every inch of their bodies in black save their face. I know now that this is where the guilt arose, maybe not arose but perpetuated itself. These nuns had a lot to answer for. They were angry, frustrated women. Black crows. This is why they have a lot to answer for;
One day in the convent I was sent on an errand at about eleven am. I walked along the slippery, shiny mahogany floors in my plaid slippers, a good little girl, with a fringe and a nice pleated navy blue uniform, white shirt, red tie. I walked in the shadows of the holy statues while the smell of polish invaded my nostrils. I noted the lighted candles on every corner, the way the smell of cabbage vied with the incense drifting from the sacristy off in the distance. I walked on along the seemingly endless darkly lit corridors, passing, a ''poor nun'' as she was called, because she was uneducated and only deemed suitable for floor polishing. She was on her knees, shining those damn floors. I could feel the ache in her back. When I got to the cloakroom I heard some whimpering in the shadows. I stopped in my tracks as I witnessed two nuns beating the hell out of a ''country'' girl with what looked like heavy dusters or canvas cloths. The girls legs had turned a bright scarlet red. She was being tortured. I stayed silent and because of my slippers I was able to steal away unnoticed. I will never forget that sight. In the so called safe sanctuary of the convent that girls crying will remain with me forever.
So there, this is a Valentine of a kind to my loving spouse. He has shown me how to dispel my Guilt, how to live each day with joy. How our lives can be as simple as appreciating what is put before us, unadulterated and pure without any preconceptions. Why just now, as I write, I can somehow imagine him, this pure Californian, playing golf in his sandals, a tattered old sweater and the light wind blowing in from the Pacific tousling his sun dappled hair, while he tries to figure out where the ball has landed. Putting his hand to his brow to block out the glare of llight falling onto his face.