The time had come for me to be confirmed into the Catholic Church. This occurs between the ages of thirteen and sixteen and is meant to signify the step from childhood to adult acceptance of Christ. Generally it is done through the school and is used as an excuse to get dressed up. All the boys wear suits, and the girls have white dresses and veils and carry flowers.
This presented two problems for me. The obvious one was the dress, but there was also the fact that each child must have a sponsor. I struggled to find one. I asked everyone I knew, but no one was prepared to stand for me. Finally I asked a school cleaning lady who lived in Ivy Leigh. Initially she said no, but I harassed her so much that she relented.
All that was left now was for me to borrow a dress. It took a lot of effort but in the end I managed to borrow an outfit. It didn’t match: someone had lent me a veil, another person the shoes, someone else the frock. I must’ve looked an absolute mess, but I was very proud of myself. On the Sunday of the service I went to the park and picked myself a bouquet of wild flowers made up of daisies and ‘pee-the-beds’ (dandelions).
To my relief my sponsor was waiting at the church. She was less than relieved, as she had to sit by this scruffy little ball of off-white clutching these dandelions and daisies with some soil still clinging to their roots.
Everything went well, though. The bishop blessed me and I took Bernadette for my confirmation name.
I felt really holy walking out of the church, until, that is, I met the reception committee of people whose clothes I was wearing.
They were all quite pleased to get their fee of two cigarettes (for the use of the clothes) from my mam. But they all knew of the Lewington reputation, and the only way they could guarantee that the clothes wouldn’t be sold or pawned on Monday morning was to take them back right away.
I still felt great about being confirmed. I’d dressed up, I had a new name, and I was part of the adult Church. Not only that, but my new name was written down in real ink in a big book in the church. I felt that as it was written down, I was someone of substance. I wasn’t a child any more. I was grown up.
My mam must have been thinking along similar lines, because before I realised it, she’d got me a job!