Baptism Day and a Day Baptized

My birthday was always such a special day for me.   As far back as I can remember, memories of Mama and September 3rd are entwined.   Big parties, presents, surprises around every corner?   No.   I can only remember having one organized party.   Instead, birthdays were simple family celebrations in our home.   You chose your favorite meal  (for several years I remember having black-eyed peas, hot dogs, pan-fried potatoes, and cornbread) and Mama made the cake of your choice (strawberry when I was very little because it was pink!).   I did not have a store-bought cake until my 18th birthday.   There was usually only one present and of course, the punctual card from Grandma and Grandad, with a crisp dollar bill enclosed (I was one of 19 grandchildren).

No, my birthday was special because Mama made it special in other, more important ways.   I remember how happy she was on my birthday and as I grew older, I came to understand that my mother felt joy for the mere fact that I EXISTED.    If I never accomplished anything or achieved any success, she was still pleased with me, simply because I was her child.   Throughout the day, I always heard the same stories.   How, it was Labor Day weekend, and she had stayed up to watch the late-night movie, something they usually never did.   And she was eating watermelon.   As I grew older, I got more details.   I would also hear the story of the day she found out she was pregnant with me.   My grandparents were visiting from Oklahoma and Grandad was helping Mama refinish an antique Duncan Phyfe dining table.    Mama was thirty-six and had did not think she would ever have another child.   She was having symptoms that worried her and the word "cancer" kept going through her mind.   Grandad would tell how he was in the garage working on the table when he saw Mama come back from her appointment.   He said she almost floated, that her feet barely seemed to touch the ground, because she was so happy.

It is no small thing to be reminded constantly throughout your childhood that your birth was a time of tremendous joy.  That you were always wanted and life would not have been the same without you.   That the mere mention of those events transformed your mother's face with a radiance from within.

Six years ago, I celebrated my last birthday with Mama.   She and my dad came to visit us and that time, I had a more keen understanding of how she felt on my birthday.   E was just nine months old and I was still reliving the memories of her birth on the first of each month, anticipating her first birthday.  I had no idea it was to be my last birthday with Mama and that fifteen days later, my world would be turned upon its head.   September, like the rest of my life would be forever changed.

I dreaded my birthday that first year.   It would be my first birthday without Mama and I felt like no one on this earth would ever be so glad that I had been born.   And I knew that fifteen days later, the anniversary would come which would close a time-door on my memories of Mama.   No longer would I have the connection with her that only months of separation brought.   No memories would ever begin again with "Two months ago, we were..." or "I remember six months ago, we..."

My next birthday was not much better, even though it was spent in our new house.   I remember the television was filled with despair and destruction of Hurricane Katrina.   My mood was only a little sunnier.  Then came 2006 and my birthday that I believed forever changed, was changed yet again.   We found out that baptisms would be held during the 8:30 mass on Sunday, September 3rd.   Two thoughts instantly: my birthday and Amber and I get to do a brunch.

Today is the 4th Anniversary of Clare's re-birth in Christ, her Baptism day.   It was such a beautiful celebration, with family and friends, during the 8:30 Sunday mass.   I can remember literally shaking with joy and tears streaming down my face as Clare was introduced to the congregation after her baptism.   She wore our family gown, the one we bought for Emmeline.   Copying Queen Victoria, we have had each child's initials and baptism date embroidered on the slip of the gown.   She was wrapped in the blanket my mom had bought for Emmeline.   When she gave it to me at my baby shower, she told me she thought it looked like something I could use at a baptism.   I am a convert and my mom was not overjoyed at my becoming Catholic, so my heart thrilled to hear her reasoning behind the choice of blanket.   My best friends, Regina and Amber and I, along with Aunt Betty, stayed up until 3:30 a.m. the "night" before, cooking for the celebration brunch.  Giddy with fatigue and friendship, we laughed and baked and stirred all night.

After the baptism, we celebrated with a house full of people.   Clare's godparents, Ray and Leslie were there with their two boys.   Leslie will forever be that beautiful person who came to the hospital when Clare was born, eyes brimming with tears of understanding of what it was to not have your mother there to share your joy.    Nancy and Deacon Ted, who had been adoptive parents for Joey and I, godparents (although only Nancy officially) to E.   Aunt Betty, Mama's older sister, who had made it a personal mission to be family support to us after we lost Mama, and who doted on our children almost as if they were her grandchildren.   And Regina and Amber--our love for them, and mine in particular would require an entire blog.   Nancy commented to me that I had once said I wanted a large family, and that now I had it.   I was richly blessed.

And like September 3rd was changed forever for Mama, by a birth by which she was so overjoyed, so too, was the day forever changed for me, by the re-birth of Clare.   A missing element of my childhood, my upbringing, would not be repeated with her.   She was to be raised in the faith.   Church and one day, heaven was to be her home.   This day is now a day to bring out her baptism photo album and relive all the precious memories of that day.   To light her baptism candle and sing "Happy Birthday" to her, and to share a birthday cake.  A day not to focus within, where I find only myself, but to focus without, where I find the blessings God has so richly bestowed upon me, and in doing so I find God.   A day changed--baptized--by Him and His love for His daughter, a Love so full that He willed her to exist.


Godparents Ray and Leslie
The Kitchen Girls

Comments

  1. Terri, I love how you said that your mom just celebrated your life... just your existence. That is a lesson that I only recently learned after the passing of Catherine. We take those birthdays for granted sometimes. Your mom sounds like a beautiful and wonderful soul. I love reading about her.

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