[Originally posted September 2006]
Two and a half years. That’s how long it had been since I was last sick. Two and a half years. So it came as no surprise when I developed a cold the night before the baptism. Pair that with the fact that Brian waited until the eleventh hour to suggest that we just do the luncheon at his place (because he was too scared of my wrath to just come out and say that he failed at securing a room in the church), and you have yourself a Very Erin Baptism.
Figuring that most of the guests wouldn’t be willing to drive from the church to downtown, where Brian lives, I decided to just have the luncheon here, in my cluttered house. Which meant that Henry spent Saturday night and Sunday morning cleaning. He tried to use that as an excuse to bail on me, claiming that it would be more conducive if he stayed behind and cleaned some more. After inspecting the house, I realized that there was nothing left to be done, short of polishing the silverware and waxing the doorknobs, so I snapped my fingers and he reluctantly donned his I’m Playing Dress Up attire. After securing Riley into his slippery baptismal garments, we were ready to go.
Everyone arrived at the church on time, even Christy, who has tardiness ingrained in her nature. I was glad to see that she was already there, because she’s the godmother. And it’s important for the godparents to be at the church.
Once inside the church, the first thing that happened was Brian rushing up to me and giving me a huge, hearty hug as if this was common practice within our friendship. For the record, it is not. Wow, Church Brian is different than Street Brian, I mused to myself.
I was too busy willing my nose not to drip to pay much attention to the guests preceding the ceremony, which I feel bad about now. Except that I don’t feel bad for ignoring Janna, who flitted around me like a fucking fairy, telling me all about the trials and tribulations she endured when baking cookies for the luncheon. I think she might have expected a pat on the back, but I was like, “Bitch, I told you to just make chocolate chip cookies, not scour the Food Network website for the most ambitious recipe you could find.”
She repeatedly worried out loud that no one would like her cookies. “Do you think my cookies will be good enough?” she’d ask. I don’t know Janna, can my kid get dunked in water first? I delegated video camera duties to her, so that arrested her mind for awhile and gave me some peace and quiet.
In a happy turn of events, two members of my family showed up: my aunt Charmaine and Grandma Lois, on my birth dad’s side. That made me less embarrassed about the fact that my other family blew it off like it was simply a communal trip to the grocery store. Even my brother Corey let me down, but that’s OK — now I won’t have to go to his high school graduation. (Oh that’s right, I play those games.) I was happy to see that Christy’s parents were there, along with Janna, Brenna, Kara, Lisa, Carol, and Christy’s boyfriend Andrew. And of course Brian, the godfather and resident churchy person.
The cold medicine which I had coursing through my system made me oblivious to the fact that I was standing near an altar. Trying to dab my nose with discretion also helped keep me from erupting into giggles every time the priest spoke. Most importantly, I didn’t do anything stupid or childish.
I was chagrined, however, to learn that I would have to speak out loud from a baptism guide book. It was your basic “I do”s and “Amen”s, but still. That made my skin crawl a little, and it was hard to keep a straight face as I realized that Henry was intentionally not participating in his speaking role. He busied himself with the squirming Riley, so I don’t think anyone noticed that his lips were not, in fact, moving.
I spent a large portion of the ceremony flipping ahead in the booklet to see how much more speaking I’d have to partake in. I’m sure I appeared to be very grateful and pious.
At one point, Riley arched his back so extremely that I felt like if someone would have slid a set of stairs underneath him, he could have recreated the deleted scene in The Exorcist. That would have been a good time.
The priest, who was quite the card, anointed Riley’s head with some scented oil crap. He then closed his eyes and said, rather dramatically, “Oh yes, that does smell wonderful” and he encouraged Henry to take a whiff of Riley’s head, but Henry was still being a spoiled sport and ignored the suggestion. I, on the other hand, had a dire need to know what it smelled like, so I announced to the church, “Well, I want to smell!” and made a show of sniffing my kid’s head like I was a dog. I don’t know why I made such a scene of it; I could barely smell anything through all the sick in my nose.
God, I must have been so attractive, standing up there with red, sore nostrils, clutching a wilted Kleenex. When I looked in the mirror before we left for the church, I swear I looked semi-decent. Then it all unraveled in the car on the way to the church and I look like Throw Mama From the Train in every picture that was so rudely snapped of me, like the only thing that’s keeping me from looking like a true Cyclops is that I have an extra eye. I somehow managed to appear pregnant all over again. Sick or not, I’m just not photogenic and you would think that after twenty-seven years of scratching out my face with a Sharpie, I’d have come to terms with this.
But no, no I haven’t. It still makes me want to rip my face off.
After about twenty minutes, Riley was officially baptized and I hastily ran away from the altar so I could blow my nose. I don’t even think I thanked the priest. Now I kind of feel shitty about that. But no, not really. Not at all.
Back at my house, everyone lavished my kid with exorbitant attention (except for Brenna, who doesn’t like kids, and Janna, who was too busy staking out the perfect spot for her cookies) and he was in his glory. He cruised around the house in his Tot Rider, showing off for all who would cast a glance his way, until Christy’s dad decided that the only way he’d stay for the luncheon and enjoy himself without faking was if I turned on the football game.
So my son was soon forgotten and the baptismal luncheon quickly morphed into a football party, but I didn’t care. I was just happy that everyone was there and staying. Every time someone would approach me at the food table, I’d desperately cry out, “You’re not leaving, are you!?” Turns out they were coming to the food table to, you know, get food. I don’t get much company.
Lest anyone get too godly, Marcy came out of hiding and skulked around under a cloud of Satanism, seducing hands to pet her so she could suckle the blood that her claws were sure to draw. I could hear Christy in the other room, begging her dad not to touch Marcy.
“Daddy please don’t touch her! I tried to tell Ma once and she didn’t listen and that cat attacked her!” She usually punctuates her pleas by holding her hand against her chest, like a mom does when her child is about to fall off the monkey bars. Christy is the head of the Put Marcy Down Coalition. They have history, those two.
I dare say that Marcy was able to eclipse the football game, if only for a few minutes.
My Grandma Lois was happy to get an opportunity to give Riley a bottle. He started coughing at one point, and with a mouthful of cake, I feigned concern. “Oh. No. My son is choking. I hope he is OK.” I even craned my neck slightly in an effort to look like I cared. Then Henry called me out. “You don’t care about him; you just want to know if you have to stop eating or not.”
Come on, I was eating cake! I don’t know many people who are inclined to forsake a piece of cake in order to save a choking victim.
Did I mention that Janna made cookies?
I started to regret asking Janna to make the cookies in the first place.
Every time I’d see her talking to someone at the luncheon, I imagined she was filling their head with her stories of being a broken woman forced to bake cookies.
“Do you like those lemon cookies? Yeah? Did you know that it took me five billion hours to make those? Well it did. I even went to Egypt and excavated the jaw of a Pharaoh which I then used to grate the lemon rind to perfection. And the cinnamon on those Snickerdoodles you’re enjoying? It’s actually directly from a cinnamon fern in Asia, and it is very helpful with diarrhea.”
It would figure that Janna would be the last to leave, and she was still expelling sour air over her fucking baked goods. She wound up with a few leftovers to take home. I feel bad for her parents.
Riley was in a sound sleep in his crib by the time I realized that I had forgotten to take a picture of him with his newly appointed godparents, so a cute bottle of Mountain Dew served as a stand-in.
All in all, it was a good day. We laughed a lot and my kid was loved on a lot and he made me proud by being such a good sport about the whole manhandling by a priest situation. And that church was really pretty, too. I’m glad I let my aesthetic disposition prevent me from using the church across the street. Because that one is very plain. And you know, looks matter.