This is an oldie but a goodie for a laugh and a think, enjoy…
Well I have a brand new niece and her name is Grace. I love that name.
If I was going to have a kid that name would be on the top of the list.
Well, only if it were a girl, otherwise the therapy bills would be
enormous. My sister Susan tells me it is time for Grace to be baptized.
Something I have had done but don’t recall much about. In fact I don’t
remember much of anything significant from my religious upbringing only
the odd memory stands out. I was raised Catholic and my mom was fairly
involved in the church when we were young. My dad was Lutheran and
according to him those folks didn’t have to dress up in itchy dresses
and go to church early on Sunday. You can bet I wished I was Lutheran
The things I do remember from those bleary Sundays were things like the strange lace doilies we used to wear bobby pinned to our heads when we went to mass, the taste of the dry paper wafer we were carefully administered by equally dry paper hands that smelled of soap and something mustier. The hard wooden pews and harder kneelers we
perched on in a series of movements that reminded me of Simon Says.
These are the things I remember about church, not exactly well rounded.
Now as an adult I am a heathen, a good aunt, but a heathen non-the-less.
One of my other sisters, of which there is a bevy, is Chris. She and I
are not active in the church in the traditional way, not even in passing or a drive by. We are more obsessed with the odd rituals of things surrounding our childhood and parental dogma rather than religious. We hold a quiet fascination for the duality of what things look like from the outside, as opposed to what they really are when you’re in them. Home life for us looked like Donna Reed to the world, but up close it was more Mommy Dearest. Kind of like an Etch-a-sketch, it’s creative fun on the outside but break it open and oops toxic by-product from Hoboken on the inside.
So Chris and I were conferring about what was a good baptism gift for sweet little Grace. I was between flights at O’Hare, the only place I have ever been in Chicago; I am not pleased to say. I traveled frequently for business and in those days cell phone cost
a fortune and were as big as a Buick so I was positioned at a pay phone
in the boarding area of my connecting flight killing time till take
off. With the warm moist swirl of humanity pressing in around me, it
was hard to concentrate at the task at hand. That and the damn overhead announcements kept cutting into our conversation.
“So what do think is proper for a baptism gift” I said.
“I thought we should get something kind of religious” my sister replied.
“Like what, a Challis, a Host dish, or something?” I offered.
“No, I was thinking something along the lines of a gold cross necklace,
your idiot.” I grimaced just barely making out the “you idiot” part over
the loud nasal voice asking Mr. Gluckman to report to the ticket
“Oh” I breathed just catching on. “You mean like a medal with a saint
on it or something like Aunt Lily gave us when we were born.” Aunt Lily was a
beloved great aunt we had.
“Yes, a medal would be good” my sister Chris agreed smoothly.
“How do we know which saint to pick” I asked.
Chris was quiet for a minute, maybe longer. I started to think the
airport phone was dead and I should rap it on the Lucite dividers
between the phones which give the illusion of privacy, without really
providing it. I was staring at mine now in earnest and noticed the man
standing next to me had become self-conscious as he punched the numbers
on the face of the AT&T monster. Does he think I am a crook taking down
his numbers to publish in some underground newspaper for
Chris’s voice came over the line and I realized she was talking to me
and I had been very far away. I stuck my tongue out at my phone bank
partner and return to mental health to hear her.
“Can’t you just pick a saint?” she asked.
“What if we pick the wrong one? What if we pick some saint for garbage
men or worse hit men?” I said.
“No, I don’t think it works like that. They’re all pretty much good guys. For Christ’s sake, they’re saints. Well except for Judas though and I don’t think he was a saint.” I can hear she was thinking out loud and sorting it all out as she went. This worried me a great deal. I like her to know more than me about these kinds of things, not only is she older
but it takes the pressure of Emily Post normalcy off me. My mother was a
fanatic about the Do’s and Don’ts of well-mannered society as we grew
up. The turnaround time for us to get a thank you card in the mail
after we received a gift would break the sound barrier.
“Oh God, now that you mention it I remember grandma saying prayers to
Saint Jude or Saint Anthony for different things.” I say to Chris. I
started to think we needed to do some in-depth research on this saint
thing, so as not to scar our niece.
“Yes” Chris said slowly drawing out the memory over the telephone line.
“Saint Christopher he was for travel, right?”
“Yup, and Saint Anthony was for lost things, or lost hope. Hell, grandma
used him when she couldn’t find her glasses.” I had become animated at
this point, I could tell. How I could tell was to look at the older
gentleman sitting in one of those joined at hip airport chairs watching
me. It wasn’t an outright stare. It was the checking the crazy person
out of the corner of your eye so as not to cause them alarm at their
strange behavior stare. I took a deep breath and turned my back to him
so he could only witness one wildly gesturing arm, not the full frontal
“I am sure” I continued with a lower voice “these guys specialize much
like doctors. You know internist, gynecologist, and dermatologist, like
“We don’t want to give her a medal with a Gyno saint” Chris mused.
“I don’t think saints actually mirror doctor’s specialties, that would be
too weird” I said.
“We are going to have to research this more”
“We can ask mommy” I suggest. “She is back stronger than ever in the
“Well,” my sister paused, “Terry is getting tutored in saying the rosary
beads right now” she whispered. Chris hasn’t referred to our mother in motherly terms since she could tie her own shoes and hitchhike to kindergarten.
“What?” I had become distracted by the edge of a steal tipped briefcase
as it clipped my shin sailing past, the gray stripped Armani never broke
“She is getting tutored at doing the rosary, because she hasn’t done it
in forever, remember that little falling out she had with God, you know,
when she said he killed daddy. Now she just needs a hand at figuring out
which prayer goes with which bead” Chris finished.
“Oh, I guess that leaves her out for now. Hell, I thought those beads
were accessorizing” I tossed out.
“No,” Chris chuckled knowing full well it was the laugh I was going for.
“What about a cross?” she offered.
“That’s an easier choice, except what about the ends of the cross do they have to be straight or is that just a Catholic thing?” I queried.
“Yea, that’s just a Catholic thing that the ends have to be straight” Chris
said, sounding tired.
The overhead announcements were blaring something about getting ready
to board special passengers first, those with friendship miles, gold
cards, people with small children, the old and the sick, the weak and
“Well I know they aren’t Catholic, what are they Methodist, Baptist?” I
had started to shout a little so she could hear me over the din, and I
was trying not to spit too much on the receiver while doing it. I did an
eye roll and threw a nasty glare at the booming nasal voice as it
blabbered on about gate information.
What about a silver cup and a spoon with Grace’s initials on them?”
Chris surrendered with a sigh. We had hit the metaphysical Emily
Post/proper baptism gift wall.
We said our good-byes and agreed to discuss this further when I got to
my final destination.
On my way down the gangplank, at least that’s what it always feels like.
I thought about our discussion on this whole saint thing. If they do
specialize, but not exactly like doctors, but along those lines, who
figures that stuff out? Is it like a bunch of church guys sitting around
in snappy hats and nice brocade? Are they the ones who appoint the
thematic slant to the new saint in town? Like Saint Christopher who is
the saint for travelers or travel. Did he hold a frequent flyer card
equivalent in his day, like most miles logged on his sandals? My
grandmother would misplace things and call for Saint Anthony to help
find them. I remember she used to say he had a keen eye. Like my friend
Eric, who could always find two seats in a crowded movie theater in the
dark. Now, that’s my kind of saint.