The Linnet's Wings :Take All My Loves, My Love - Page 92

The Linnet´s Wings babies clinging to columns in Limbo, exiled for infinity. I tried to picture infinity, but each time grew faint thinking of living in nothingness forever. Hell was depicted full of demons and fire. I understood that it was where all the really bad people went, those who committed mortal sins. Despite my occasional violations of certain commandments, like fibbing and stealing sugar and candy, they were in the minor sin category. I hadn’t committed any major sins that I was aware of, so believed I would at least escape going to hell. Purgatory, while a disquieting thought, at least was temporary, so if I messed up enough along the line, I could still get to Heaven eventually, once I completed my punishment. But then Heaven was a mysterious place. In some holy cards, the blessed mother was a beautiful woman dressed in blue and white robes. Saints were either standing on white puffy clouds looking towards the heav- ens, or arms folded holding palms. Almost all had halos. Saint Michael the Ark Angel was pictured striking the devil with his sword. The devil appeared in so many guises, it was impossible to keep up with. The worst of the holy cards were the endless pictures of Jesus nailed on the cross, his face contorted with anguish. In some depictions, even after having been risen to heaven his heart and wounds were still open and bleeding. I was not so sure that in the end, I really wanted to go to heaven. Heavy thoughts for a child, but then I never really was a child, so thought about such things in all seri- ousness. I was comforted by the fact that it was very unlikely that I would end up there, but the other two choices were definitely not an improvement. I wondered if there was another place to go after purgatory, something more pleasant, though none were mentioned by the nuns in school. No, the choices were, heaven, hell, or purgatory. From everything that Zia Maria counseled, I would never be a saint, so where would I go? Would I wait between purgatory and the gates of heaven in hesitation forever, or would my guardian angel tired of waiting for me, take me kicking and screaming into the kingdom of heaven? I hadn’t felt her presence lately. Perhaps she had stolen away one day just as my mother had. The nuns were too formidable to ask my endless existential questions. I didn’t know how to ask Zia Maria in Italian, as I could hardly formulate the question myself. To this day, I’m not sure she would have understood. Zia Maria was a practical woman who did not trivialize in life or specifically a curious child’s unanswerable questions. In second grade some of the more pious girls wanted to be nuns when they grew up. My experience with nuns discouraged that kind of thinking from the start. Not that they were all mean, but I had been witness to a few that were exceptionally cruel. I looked forward to my First Communion when I was six years old. It was not the marriage to Jesus Christ I was studying my communion book so intently for, but the chance to wear a pretty white commun- ion dress, and walk in the parade. A mother of one of the older school children in the Parish gave me her daughter’s white communion dress to wear. I felt like a bride with my frilly dress and veil, but must confess Jesus never entered the picture. I imagined I was marrying a boy named Nicky that my sister and I often squabbled over ever since he moved into a house that faced our back yard. *** 92