I was 16.
In my last year at school, the last year of my ‘childhood’.
The last year living at home, something I couldn’t wait to come to an end too.
I had the college application forms filled out with the obligatory 5 choices of course in different colleges; ranging from Construction Studies to Social Care. I didn’t know whether I wanted to work with my hands or with people.
I had also applied to be a nurse; in the same place my mother had started her nursing course but had to stop because she got married (the whole marriage ban thing had been going on at the time). My Gran (God rest her) had encouraged me to fill in the application form. At least if her daughter wasn’t going to qualify as a nurse, maybe her granddaughter might.
I was really confused as to what I wanted to be when I grew up.
So I had just spent 3 days in a convent, at an open weekend. Trying to find myself or find God, which ever came first.
As it turned out I found neither, just more pen pals. Three more to add to my collection. Irelands Own magazine had a lot to answer for in those days.
One of my pen pals had been a nun, Sr. Bernie, who I had written to expressing an interest in joining the missions. We had written to each other for 6 months before meeting up for my introduction weekend to the religious life.
My mother was on cloud nine. She was/is of an era where having a son/daughter in the religious life was a mark of honour in a family. I imagined at the time she thought she would have a Fast-pass into heaven if I joined up.
I reckon I was groomed to be in the religious life. My mother is a strict Catholic and I being the eldest, accompanied her to all religious events and days of obligation. Mass, Stations of the Cross, Confession, Mass in neighbour’s houses, funerals, you name it I was there with my mother.
And for a time my mother went through a phase of getting us all to pray the Rosary every evening, (and the Angelus if we happened to be near her when the Church bell rang out at 6pm) ‘The family that prays together, stays together’ was her motto. My father just did what ever she did.
In our house the only alcohol I ever saw was the sherry in the trifle at Christmas. Neither parent ever touched a drop. Nor did I until I turned 21.
The only cuss words we heard (but not allowed to say) was shit.
I was quiet and shy and never been kissed (although I did rebel against my mother by smoking).
I was made to be a nun; that is until I actually checked out what being one entailed.
The convent was way too quiet for me. The religious life was going to be too structured for me, and that was a way of life I was trying to escape from.
So I disappointed my mother by turning my back on it.
I was eventually kissed (once) at a local disco.
I did my Leaving Cert. and prayed hard that I would pass it.
I did pass it, and got enough points to get offered places in college (Construction Studies) and in Nursing; but the Nursing won the toss.
And I got to move out of home after my 17th birthday.