Many people regret some of the things they did, said and decided in the past, and I am one of them. The sick kitten that I and a friend found when we were about 9 years old on a building site on the seafront in Famagusta Cyprus and put into a sack cloth before wading out into the warm Mediterranean water to drown it and ‘put it out of its misery’ while it squiggled around desperately dying, the girlfriend I slapped in the face as an angry young man of 23 in the Seventies, not having had children, deciding not to listen to the voices of those wonderful older and wiser people than I who gave me advice which I badly needed but which I stubbornly refused to acknowledge at the time; these are but a few of the many things I did and decided in the past which I now regret doing and not doing and which sometimes creep back into my mind, as if to haunt me.
But although I know we all do dumb things sometimes and shouldn’t spend our lives feeling bad about them – hey, we’re only human after all – there is one thing in my life that I regret doing more than any other, and which haunts me more than any other. I would give anything to be able to wind back the clock to undo what I did that day. My only real regret and my only real shame.
Art class that day was great! We had to build a cardboard model of a factory. You know, three-dimensional and all that, realistic and imaginable. We glued the bits together. Sort of. Anyway, it was good fun and the teacher was very pleased with mine and told me so.
That which meant that I was proud of it and really wanted to show it to my mum and dad when I got home. After all, I was only ten years old, you know, the age when when you take home academic victories to your parents as if you are the older kitten which has just caught and eaten its first bird and leaves its remains on the doorstep to impress mama cat.
I got home, and seeing that my mother was in the garden I went inside and carefully placed and positioned my model on the kitchen table, in pride of place, waiting for her to come in from the garden and admire it.
She finally came in. I just knew that she would immediately notice my masterpiece and praise it and my talent. But, she didn’t.
“Hi. Have a good day? Can you go get me a scuttlefull of coal please (yes, we had coal in them days to heat our houses) so I can light the fire? Your father will be home soon.”
She hadn’t noticed my model???!!!
Whereupon, and in a mad fit of rage, I picked up the model, threw it angrily down onto the floor, and stomped on it stomped on it stomped on it cursing and blinding and shouting with pathetically petulant egotistical arrogance and infantile rage until it had been crushed into a sad and sorry ruin, lying there forlornly on the floor. There. Crushed. Unrecognisable. Happy? That’s my revenge for you not seeing and recognising my grand art and telling me how talented I am. Yah boo sucks!
But when it was all over, and my furious words had disappeared into the walls, my mother stood there, frozen. Her mouth was wide open yet she said nothing. She just looked at me intensely and deeply, her big and beautiful dark brown eyes wide open with horror and incomprehension. They drilled right into my soul. It was the first time I had ever seen her look shocked and I was totally unnerved by it. I knew right there and then that I had hurt not only her, but myself as well. And I knew she knew it too. She turned her back on me and walked back outside.
Regrets? Sure, we all have them.
I shall never forget that frightened look in my mother’s eyes that day. After all, I had just refused to bring in the coal to heat the house. Our house. That was my job, to bring in the coal to heat my mother and my father and my sisters, and I would do it with a sense of pride. That was just how it was in those days.
But upon that day I refused to fulfil my role as a useful member of my family, stupidly preferring instead to think that I and my amazing model were the centre of the universe and to hell with everyone else. I really loved my mother more than anyone or anything else and I looked up to her as an example, yet I had let her down.
Yes. The deepest shame of all…