After my sister pointed out (see comment) that my last post about music and decay was somewhat cruel I felt a pang of contrition and wished that I had been more tactful in what I had written. It was but a short step from there to regretting all kinds of things I had said and done recently and in the course of my entire life. This subject has preoccupied me over the past week, and may even have been the reason for my ‘white night’ last night.
I don’t always control my tongue, and occasionally statements slip out that I regret almost immediately. There is sometimes a fine distinction between being witty and being nasty, and that may even depend on the sensitivity of one’s interlocutor. It so happens that many of my conversations are conducted in either Hebrew or English (or both), and perhaps my fluency in one or the other of those languages is not as perfect as I imagine, so that a remark meant to occasion laughter or admiration for my wit falls flat and in fact is hurtful or arouses anger. I sometimes realise this and hasten to apologise, but I can’t be sure that this is always the case. I’m sorry that I have inflicted pain on people through the things I have said.
Then, of course, there are things I have done that I regret. In my teens I used to torment our family dog by holding its muzzle closed so that it couldn’t breathe, though I always desisted when it was obviously in distress. Still, I wish I hadn’t done that. It doesn’t show a very nice side of my youthful character. I used to make fun of boys who seemed keen on me and did not come up to the ridiculously high standard I had set for someone whose feelings I could reciprocate. I’m sorry now for having hurt those boys’ feelings. I’m especially sorry about leaving one particular party, to which I had come with one boyfriend and left with another (whom I eventually married), without even saying goodbye.
I don’t think I have ever deliberately caused anyone physical harm, but I have done so accidentally. I’m sorry I didn’t realise that the traffic light on the road up to French Hill had changed to red, and continued racing to get through the green light, realising my mistake too late and crashing into the car ahead that had stopped. No-one was really hurt, though of course our two cars were damaged, but I wish I had been more careful. Of course I regret all the other occasions when I scraped our car’s bumper or doors. Our current, relatively new, car bears the scars of several of those incidents (though not only mine).
I was launched into motherhood in a woefully unprepared state, and in my ignorance I let my 18-month-old daughter eat peanuts as she played at my feet in the kitchen. When some water splashed onto her she breathed in part of a nut she was eating, and had to be taken to hospital to undergo a bronchoscopy. This was no simple matter, and a specialist in operating on small children had to be summoned before the procedure could go ahead (his name was Professor Feinmesser, incidentally). This happened simply because I was extremely ignorant when it came to child care, never having had any interest in other people’s babies. The doctor was horrified to hear that I hadn’t known that one shouldn’t give nuts to children under five, at least. The hallowed pages of Dr. Spock’s book on looking after your baby had made no mention of any such precaution, although every mother in Israel but me seemed to know about it. Luckily, there were no major ill-effects, but the situation could have been disastrous.
I’m sorry I let our second child have bottles filled with diluted fruit juice in his infancy, just so that he would be quiet for a while. This led to severe decay of his baby teeth, which had to be extracted when he was two. I’m sorry I let our third child sip the whisky his father was drinking, also when he was two or three years old. I hope this did not cause him serious damage. I know now that what I did was stupid and irresponsible, and I have no excuse to make for my actions.
There are many more things I regret in life. Why didn’t I try harder at school? Why didn’t I stay on one more year at the L.S.E. and get an M.A. there instead of struggling for over three years to complete one in Israel? Why didn’t I insist on persevering with my studies after my daughter was born instead of succumbing to the life of a stay-at-home Mum? I know that those were different times, and I was ignorant of the child-care options available at the time, but it shows a certain lack of gumption on my part. Still, I console myself with the thought that I did manage to make some sort of career for myself as a translator, and even to eventually get a decent job as an editor/translator at the Bank of Israel, but it took me a hell of a long time to get there.
I’m sure there are many more things I’ve said and done that I should regret but I can’t because I can’t remember them. There are certain benefits to forgetting things from the past that can only cause one pain.
Yet everything seems to have worked out for the best in the end, after all. Regardless of the stupid things I have said and done and the wrong turns I have taken in life I can still look back on the path I have trodden with a certain modicum of satisfaction. But nonetheless, as my teachers always used to write on my school reports, I should try to do better.