I love spell check. I love how I can type (yes old school: asdf jkl;) a word and see it’s wrong and right-click (the reason I won’t use Macs) and there’s the suggestions for spellings. It’s great for creative writers like myself because it leads to happy accidents, like the title of this blog. I typed “be-life” rather than ‘belief’.
Belief has become such a loaded word in our raucous, opinionated, fracturing U.S culture. As I conjured the title, I kept returning to that word because it’s the right one. Not that my beliefs are the Right One. . .just the right word. We all have them. My husband believes in those wonderful low bass notes, believes in himself as a musician, believes in our marriage, but proudly identifies himself “a born-again atheist”. He makes snide comments about pagan rituals.
Me, I’m still Catholic. (OMG she came out!) And again the noise of culture rises in my mind like noisy geese saying: “WTF? How can you say that? Those priests did all those horrible things to small children. Ruined lives. . .” You know those headlines from Boston to L.A. I know them well, I lived in Boston when the cookies or shall I say, wafers, started to crumble. But I what I saw was pathetic men, demented by power and sick inside as well as an institution with dry rot in the footings.
Belief, be life. . .what is it to be in our lives? For me it is a comfort in how certain prayers come to mind in my worst moments and a rattle them, feel the words in my mind. It lets me breathe again. I am comfortable using lots of names for belief. . .and I know there are many names and many mansions on many hills. The thing is, my Irish ancestors died, starved to death because they were Catholic. “A Modest Proposal” was written for my kith and kin.
Saturday I was a godmother to a boy, about three weeks old. My dear friends asked me and I was stunned they did. This is probably the only baby I will be a godparent to, a little star-gazer who gave those waiting a bit of a scare as he came into the world. (poop story coming up, fair warning) My husband (remember: snide remarks about pagan rituals) and I go to the house, where the baby is and other family members. The new mom says, “he was up every hour last night! Here, he’s nursed, needs a burp and diaper change. Then you get to dress him!” I nod at the plan, she’s a bit too giddy at this thought. Her mother is lite up like Times Square and so, I and the godfather, get to little socks and little shoes (had to have shoes?).
Apparently in their family it is tradition for the godparents, the god mother in particular to dress the baby for the baptism. The gown in fifth generation silk, a long streaming gown with a little slip to underneath. We get the slip over his head and down the body and start to get the gown on him and then the noise. Yes, that distinct infant poop noise. Change or not change was the question, I went for change: pushed back and away all the antique silk, barked at the dad to get me a fresh diaper, wiped him clean and then feet in my hands, about to put the fresh one under that little bottom just as he made ‘the face’ and there was the mustard yellow, what was maybe the four o’clock feeding, all over the purple sheet. My god child shat almost on me. Almost. OK, so I am old hand at babies, without batting an eye and not laughing yet, grabbed the burp cloth, put it under his bum and the fresh diaper on. Much laughter. You might say it was guffaws. The little one took it all in stride as we finished the job and got him in the car seat. New, fancy car seat meets old family baptism gown: interesting mix on what is really a pagan ritual.
He slept through the entire service. (His parents looked like they wanted to sleep too.) Since his mother’s still healing, half way through the service I took the baby in my arms and then I started to cry. Didn’t mean to. . .snuffly crying. Wishing I had a burp cloth on my shoulder so I could wipe my nose crying. As I held the baby I held the belief that we are to love the children that come into our lives, not just family, but all of them. Belief that children are our future. I said yes to being a grandmother in a flawed institution because I believe we need to raise children believing in something. When they reach a certain age, well then if they choose something else, it is theirs.
As I held that baby over the font and saw his sleeping face scrunch up in surprise at the first drip, I said, ‘it’s ok, you’re with Ammi’ and he went back to sleep. In the litany and prayers my body knows by heart, I felt my mother and grandmother with me, I felt their pride. I haven’t felt my mother with me in a long time. I cried more for I was holding the past and the future, being. Life. (Let it be known, no drips hit the antique silk. )
Stay tuned, for “Belief, Be Life and a Few Glasses of Wine.”