When I was too young to go to school the mornings were all full of bright light and breathing and rooks in the horse chestnut trees in the field across the road. Our house was softly silent while my parents were asleep and I had nothing to think about except how chilly the dew would be on my fingertips, and how hard it must be for the swallows to fly together in a big wind, and how the water from the garden tap hissed hollowly, like an ancient snake. Sometimes a deep mist would come down from the hillside and the house and garden would become totally still, and in the muffled air I would hear the thump and stumble of cows in the far field.
When my father would wake, we would sometimes make breakfast together, hard boiled eggs and toast with marmalade and Weetabix and tea, and we would bring it on a tray to my mother as she lay in bed. Sometimes she seemed happy to see us, and I'd sit in bed beside her and read while she are and drank, and we would talk about what I was reading. Name the dinosaurs: Brachiosaurus. Diplodocus. Ornithosuchus. This one weighed 45 tons. This one was 18 metres long. She would step in and out of the world of my thoughts, helping me to make sense of the world.
Sometimes she seemed angry to be wakened, as if we were causing her to lose her grip on a beautiful world, a vision she needed to realize without our distraction. One year, on April 1st, we played a trick on her. We hard boiled an egg and opened the fat end, scooping out the meat and giving her the empty shell in an eggcup with the opening turned down so that she wouldn't see it. She cracked the top with her spoon as was her habit, and we laughed at the hollow sound, but her face fell strangely, and I felt sorry, and wanted to bring her another egg; a real one, so that she would trust us again and not be sad. The strangest things upset her.
I have never enjoyed playing practical jokes on anyone since then, because of that feeling of being the deciever, tricking someone in a moment of vulnerability, eroding their trust in the sincerity of my gestures. I didn't know what was going on in her head. All I could understand was that, somehow, I had hurt her.
Somehow human beings carry guilt like this in our psyches from so long ago - strange, insignificant incidents that seemed more important because we had no experience, no way to discriminate between degrees of hurt and rejection and betrayal and suffering. We carry the images and stories in our minds for decades, and they colour our experiences of everything in our lives - a vague sense of guilt maybe, or fear, that enters our relationships and affects our perceptions, our interpretations of the actions of others.
Maybe the act of remembering frees us from the guilt, or maybe it lingers in the scent of other times and the taste of other memories. It's one of the hardest things to realize about yourself: I haven't done anything wrong.