My youngest girl received her first holy communion this past Saturday. If you’re unfamiliar with Catholicism, all you need to know is that this is a Big Deal in Catholicland. It’s the beginning of a kiddo’s journey to adulthood, the first of many decisions she’ll make as a child growing up in a religion hoisted on her by her parents, and, frankly, one of the first times her parents look at her and can really glimpse what she’ll be like as an adult.
Cue ALL THE TEARS.
David and I drove ourselves nuts the week before the ceremony–since first communion always takes place in the springtime, you’re basically forced to do all of the usual spring cleaning and yard work in the space of a hot minute in order to make sure people don’t show up to your house and wonder if you’re working your way through a depression. We painted things and stained things and framed things and, well, all of the things. We ate a lot of pizza for dinner (“Pizza again? Didn’t we just have pizza??”). We vacuumed a lot. And then the big day happened and all hell broke loose. The dog peed under Quinlan’s bed as we were hurrying out the door to church. I snapped the little cross necklace we’d given Quinlan in half while I was trying to clasp it around her neck. I said many, many words that don’t really jive with sacred moments involving Jesus and little children and holy things. I seared a chunk of skin off the poor girl’s forehead with a curling iron as I was rushing through the very last curl on her hair. I said more bad words. I remembered at the very last minute to order the food for the party, and I totally forgot that *I* had to wear something to this thing and yanked an old dress from Cian’s baptism out of the back of my closet. It was hectic and stressful and happy and nonstop.
But then there was Quinn: excited to receive communion for the first time, plain and simple. Offhand one day, I asked her if she believed in the sacrament, and she looked at me askance. “MOM,” she said. I swear she seemed disappointed in me. “You have to in order to receive.” (dude, I was just making sure). She was nervous about people watching her, but happy to have relatives who love her be there for her. She was thrilled to have me “curl her curls” (this was pre-scalding, of course) and wear the pretty dress, and have the fancy veil. She was super mad to discover the host tastes “like cardboard.” And I watched her, and I listened to her–our middle child, the one who was the loudest and most loving baby–and I saw all of the goodness.
I saw her earnestness. I saw the thoughtfulness. I saw her confidence, and the shy pride, and the faith and the comfort in who she is and what she was doing.
And I thought, holy crap.
And then, more coherently: This child should be my role model.
She took off her dress as soon as she got home from church that day. Changed into shorts and a t-shirt and ran away from all the adult family gathered around her to go outside to play basketball and jump on a trampoline and slide down the slide with her friends and siblings. We brought them all inside for cake and lemonade and watched them run off again, giggling. In a spare moment, I ducked into our bedroom and saw the cross necklace I’d lent her–my own, a delicate one David had given to me years ago–carefully laid on the dresser, the chain looped just so.
She’s a child. But I had a glimpse of her as a grown-up.
And I’m still humbled by what I witnessed.