I thought it was all about the party if I’m honest. I had spent a good few weeks thinking about what would be on the menu, what kind of beer to buy and how to make the garden look as good as possible for all our guests. In the midst of that, I overlooked that there’s certainly more to a christening than Little Creatures Ale and pulled pork burgers. (As nice as they both are….)
I grew up in a smallish regional town where my Godmother was in charge of a Sunday school at the local church. My two brothers and I would often moan our way there, behave somewhat worse than was expected of us and then be glad when it was over in order to start playing sport outdoors again. I wouldn’t say the messaging of faith alluded us, but we certainly weren’t particularly focused on it.
So flash forward twenty or thirty years and here I am in the Mary Immaculate Church in Waverley – a grand and spacious Catholic church, holding our baby Theo as Father Bernie starts his christening service.
Like a wedding, the seriousness of it all hits you when you’re standing at an altar in front of all of your friends. You’re exposed, on show and there’s nowhere to hide. Thoughts are running through your mind, ranging from the philosophical – (am I worthy of making these vows? Am I a fraud?) to the practical (How heavy is Theo these days?! Did I switch the oven on?) And all the time you have an audience looking, smiling and radiating good vibes towards you.
Praying is not something I do much of (at all?), so to suddenly be thrust into a service where you are being watched as you make statements such as ‘I believe in the God, the Father and the holy spirit’ is not something that’s natural. It feels awkward, no two ways about it. Thankfully Theo seems to not be too bogged down with an internal spiritual debate and instead rises to the occasion. He smiles at opportune moments, he laughs as he receives ointment and he enjoys having a good amount of water splashed over his head (we’ve actually been practicing this at bathy time recently). He completely steals the show and we couldn’t be prouder.
Like at our wedding, I realize mid ceremony that the formalities mean a lot to other people too, so as I’m standing there with an increasingly tired arm (what have you been eating recently Theo?), I’m able to relax and not only enjoy it for mine and Katie’s sake, but for the sake of others. It’s an emotional rollercoaster but in the end the positives are uplifting and life affirming. (Spiritual even?)
The service finishes and it’s a race to get home and crack open bubbles, beers and burgers. My leaf raking, grass cutting, furniture shopping all goes completely unnoticed as it decides – opposite of what was forecasted – to pour down with rain. It will take me a few weeks to get over this, but in time the scars will fade. Instead of the great summer garden party I envisioned, I am left making middle age comments such as ‘I’ve been checking the forecast all week and it never said rain!’ followed by ‘Can someone please bring the outdoor cushions in?’ I apologize to Andy B for consistently unloading this dross chat on you more than once….
If there’s one thing a bunch of ex-pats can handle though, it’s rain. It doesn’t dampen spirits in the slightest and our modest two bed apartment becomes a home as it buzzes with conversation and laughter from our guests. People chip in and help us with food, logistics and allow us to enjoy the gathering. It was Katie’s idea for Theo to be christened and if it were down to me, it may or may not happened. As I look around the room I’m no longer thinking religious thoughts, but just real life, in-the-now feelings towards my family and friends.
What I’ll take most from the day, is not just the service and the vows, nor just the party, but the love created by the community of people that took the time to celebrate with us. Regardless of your religious views, having your baby in that environment can only be a good – or dare I say, enlightening, thing.