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IF A CONFESSION FALLS AND NO ONE IS AROUND TO HEAR IT, DOES IT STILL MAKE A SIN?

(Robertson Prize Nonfiction Winner)
littlemer

The drills happened every Wednesday night -- up at St. Francis de Chantal. The earthly saints, bound in black and white, snapped the whip as we recited our catechism lessons, instructions and protocol —beating and berating us with the seriousness of it all. Our First Holy Communion.

As part of this religious rite of passage, we had to prepare for the Sacrament of Reconciliation (as they call it now). Back then we just called it, “going to confession”. And it was up to me to come up with mine. I worked on it for months.

How far back should I go? Should I start big and work my way down? Or inch my way up to my worst transgressions? Should I include all of them or save some for later? What if they’re too bad? What if they’re too good? What if I don’t have enough? What if I have too many?

The saints never told us how long a confession should be.

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IN THE BEGINNING

littlemer

The first time I lied I was four. I stood my ground, digging my size one’s into the carpet. Unwilling to admit the truth, I was ordered to bed with no milk and cookies. It was a seminal moment for me.

I was living with my father’s old and beloved Aunt Bella and Uncle Bill, while my very sick and pregnant mother was in the hospital and my out-of-his-mind father and three older sisters were back at home an hour away. I had never been alone before and believe this experience was life changing - irrevocably separating me from my family’s identity, sometimes in big, loud and rowdy ways and sometimes like a whisper.

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BUILD IT AND THEY WILL COME

littlemer

I was having a conversation in Spanish with Ariela, the nanny from Monterey, Mexico, who lives with my recently married, recently parented, recently home- owning neighbors across the street. She was pushing their baby in a swing they recently attached to the venerable front yard tree (the only thing left of the 1928 home they recently demolished).

But, let me be honest, when I say a “conversation in Spanish,” I mean my broken, basic grasp of that language with Ariela, who speaks no English.

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