Amid the dark procession, hands clasped, my sister and I sat in the second pew. We wore our family’s heirloom pearls and jewels. As the oldest daughter, I wore my great grandmother’s modest engagement ring, “I will love you forever” engraved inside. The parishioners all turned to watch the most able men bear the palls, my father among them, the only one without a jacket, without cufflinks, in a tie that’s hasn’t been untied in 13 years. A man who had bore Life on his shoulders now struggled to pick up the Dead.
It seemed ironic.
There had been an ungraceful gospel, a halting homily. Standing, sitting, standing, kneeling. The pew creaked under the weight of my cousin Cindy, the adopted one, the one who had half her foot amputated. Green won’t take over us though, because we don’t really share blood.
I very much did not want to receive communion, but in the midst of your elders is not the place to dissent. I looked at my grandmother, all puffy and red-eyed, I rolled the diamond ring around my ring finger, and walked up anyway. Is it your left hand under your right hand or the other way around? I skipped the wine altogether. More irony. Reformed to an eight year old, I challenged myself to not chew the Eucharist, to taste but not swallow- in the Christian tradition.
Mass used to be tangible, used to make me holy by the transitive property, but all this education makes it so abstract. My body, his body. His blood, our blood, my veins. Your sins, my sins, Eve’s sins, my unborn child’s sin.
The stained glass window depicted the coil-haired Angel Gabriel delivering the news of child to the Virgin Mary.
“If I say, ‘Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,’
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.
For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother's womb.”
All around the glassy Gabriel and Mary were eleven cherub faces, with wings sprouting from their ears. Missing unknit masses.
We oldest daughters were tucked under our father’s arms. Our younger sisters were tucked under ours. And our brothers sat solemn and strong, as if to prove their shoulders broad enough already to bear life under our father’s roofs and under our family’s name.
As a good Christian family we rose and prayed- the Blomquists, the Murrens, the Barkleys-nee-Barcowski’s together, bonded by deviled eggs, Easter eggs and not infrequently infertile eggs. I wondered what I would do when my own mother dies, if in that church I could smell flowers, of peach roses she’s so fond of.
I thought about the children I would knit in my womb, and the tiny booties I would knit for their knitted feet. I thought about my grandchildren who would come home to attend the funerals of aunts they barely knew. I touched my abdomen and felt the pains of knitting needles, I heard them clinking out the seconds.
I can’t say I much believe in faith, but I paid two dollars to light a little red candle- palm to palm and on my knees.