Tuesday, October 12, 2010

7. The Christening

Religion, Jesus and the Lord, were never discussed in our house. Apart from pictures on Christmas cards, I did not know anything about the baby Jesus until my religious education began at school. I asked mummy if I could go to Sunday school and she agreed.

I had never seen anyone like the vicar before; he was quiet, patted us on the head and smiled a lot. Watching him christen a baby, gently holding the infant in his arms, was very moving. I could not understand why he poured water over the baby’s head to make it cry, but I assumed it was for the baby’s own good. I longed to be held in those arms. That night, in bed, I propped two pillows together to imitate the hood of a pram, put my right arm under my legs, my left arm across my body and imagined the vicar was lifting me up, out of my pram, and just holding me. That may have been my first, innocent, sexual fantasy or, as I was only six, just a longing to be held gently by my father. I leave that question for the psychologists to answer.

My auntie Ivy, mother’s sister and Doris’s twin, was married at the Church in Grand Drive, Raynes Park, to a very nice man called Reg.  He had managed one of father’s shops, but had left after a big row, so we were not invited to the wedding. Mother must have told me that it was taking place because I went to the church, climbed on to the big gate, and waited for the bride and groom and all the guests come out of the church. They did not see me and I knew, for the first time, what it is like to be on the outside looking in, lonely and unrecognised.

Grandfather and Aunty Doris were there too, but I dared not speak to them because I should not have been there uninvited, and they did not see me.  Mother must have been terribly unhappy at being unable to attend her sister’s wedding.

Is seven the age for discovering new feelings and trying to understand what they mean? Can one understand jealousy, fear, pain, loneliness and love without actually experiencing them? Around this time I seemed to be learning an awful lot.

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