Monday, May 6, 2013

Body and Blood

My daughter's First Communion was this past weekend. Considering the stress, time, and money involved, it might as well have been a mini-wedding. I send her to Catholic school so that I don't have to deal with the religious education of my child specifically to avoid questions such as, "Mommy, why does the communion wafer taste like cardboard?" My first response, aka, my inner voice, was to ask what dried blood and decayed meat should taste like, being that she is, according to the tenets of her faith, eating the body and blood of a dead man. My second response, or the words I actually said out loud asked what flavor would work best. She thought lemon would be good.

As readers of this blog know, in second grade, the kids make the sacrament of confession and the one of communion. At her school, this entails endless meetings, e-mail reminders, paperwork, and really, really random take-home sheets. Confession was in February, and no, I did not confess my sins as my priest would have preferred. Instead, I watched my husband dither about whether he should confess from the relative safety of my pew. In the end, he missed his window because my daughter raced to the front of the line and by the time he made up his mind, she was already out and we had to get to basketball practice. Priorities, right?

Communion was a whole other basket of cats. There was the nighttime, parent-only meeting. One hour of my life lost to the ether. There was the Saturday morning tour of the church that was required for parents and children. The "tour" included a fascinating 15 minute lecture about the history of the church and its architecture. There was a 45 minutes lecture about the history of the alter which was insanely age-inappropriate and at least 35 minutes too long. During it, the lovely head of religious education held up cue cards with long, Latin words on them for the children to say, like a demented, ecclesiastical Vanna White. This was followed by a 20 minute fashion show wherein the priest took out every single vestment, robe, cassock, etc., in every single color he owned and lovingly spread them out to be oohed and aahed over. Let me tell you, the boys were really into that part of the program. Finally, with 10 minutes to go, we were all rushed through the sacred space behind the altar with barely enough time to take in the sink without plumbing (to wash remnants of the host directly into the soil, which just has to violate building code) and the fact that there is a full-length mirror hidden back there. The children also got to enjoy a Saturday retreat (separate from the tour), and not one, but two 90 minute rehearsals for the big day.

The parents got to spend money. All the boys wore suits, either bought or borrowed, but all very, very dapper. I've already got my eye on a suit that has made the rounds through two different families. Those parents got off lucky. I've got a girl, which means the prep started a full day in advance. We had a Mommy/Daughter mani-pedi where I tried not to moan in pleasure while the burly Asian man pummeled my legs with hot rocks and she acted like a grown up in her mini Hello Kitty pedicure tub. There was the hair appointment. My daughter had so much hairspray to keep her bun in place that when we took out all the pins, the hair still didn't move. Putting on her jewelry (all family gifts), putting on her shoes, and zipping up made me flash-forward 20 years to her wedding day.

Then of course, there was the banner. Every child had to create a banner for the church. I spent a full week trying to find a banner kit that met our specific size specifications (where were of course different than those found in the standard kit sold in every St. Jude store). My child lovingly crafted the dumb thing, I managed not to burn myself using the glue gun putting it all together and where did they hang them? At the end of our pews, helping us find our designated seats? No. These lovely banners that most of the kids made themselves with felt and glue and love and attention were hung on the altar rail where no one could see them. So, what was the point of the banner again?

The ceremony itself was quite lovely. The priest rose to the occasion and actually spoke to the children instead of lectured the parents. All family was present and accounted for and the worst behaved of the lot were the uncles in the back row, not the little guy tucked in with them and a stack of comic books. A family friend came to the church and took lots of pictures for us, and the food I cooked must have been half-decent because there wasn't a whole lot left of it. It was perfect weather, the dogwoods were still in bloom in my backyard, and the track meet that took up all the parking on my block ended long before my guests arrived. Sure, my mom showed up an hourly early (so once again, my hair didn't get done), and stayed two hours late (without even once attempting to clean up a plate), but she and my father were appropriately dressed, so I'll take that as a win. By the time my husband, son, and I climbed into my bed to watch the Phillies game, my daughter was long asleep, and the rest of us weren't far behind.  

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