But he would not be much older than this when his mother told him that she hadn't wanted him....she had wanted a girl, and furthermore she had known he was going to be bad luck because when she was pregnant a black rat had run across the path in front of her.
Things did not improve.
He would splash in puddles and muddy the clothes she had made....there would be a quarrel between the parents over his 'wildness' which would end in his father hitting his mother who would roll on the floor crying out to him
'Look what you made him do!'
Little drudge in the household....
Down to the back door of the bakery at 6.00 am, summer and winter to have fresh bread on the breakfast table.....
Doing the shopping after school in town, to bring it back on the train and found panic stricken by the priest when he had mistakenly put the shopping money on the collection plate....
Out weeding the vegetable garden every evening.....before washing up and then rocking to sleep first the little brother and later the little sister before his own bedtime.
Summer was his release.
Sent, travelling alone from the age of five, to his father's mother he was in the world of his cousins and their friends, in and out of houses and gardens, taking turns to ride a rusty old bicycle in a pair of shorts made from an uncle's worn out corduroy trousers.....sheer freedom.
His mother would bring the two younger children to stay with her parents....in the same town.
He would go to the house every morning to say hello, but that was the limit of the contact. His shabby shorts did not fit her picture of herself as the devoted young mother whose fine sewing adorned her offspring.
Thwarted in his desire to study art, pushed into a job he did not want to do, dealing with a father who became demented when his wife left him, trying to hold things together and blamed for everything, his teens and early twenties were no brighter.
The black rat was always across his path.
Yet when, many years later, his elderly mother began to have accidents...leaving the gas on, taking tumbles...he was the only one of her children to offer to take her into his own home, to convert the ground floor of his house into a flat for her and provide daily assistance and nursing care, at his own expense.
Because the child had been taught by the nuns to honour his father and his mother and to return good for evil.... and the childhood showed the man.