Today is Jasper's baptism birthday. I chose May Day because it's festive and easy to remember and it points to new life that comes with spring.
I am a baptism freak. I always celebrate mine in December and I love knowing and remembering the day for others. If I'm sitting in the pews for a baptism, I cry with joy. I crane my neck to see. I giggle when babies squeal at the cold water. I squeeze Matt's hand as the pastor marks his or her forehead with an oily sign of the cross. If I am helping with a baptism, I'm amped up for the rest of the day. It enlivens and excites me. I have trouble sleeping that night because I'm so hopeful and happy.
Last year Jasper was baptized at the beginning of Sunday worship at St. John's. I had my alb and stole and microphone all ready to go in the sacristy, but first I joined Matt and my family in the pews. For a moment at the beginning of the service I was a mother in a linen dress awaiting the sacrament. I will always be, first and foremost, Jasper's mom. Sometimes his pastor, too, but never first. (Lord, help him.)
Mark did the liturgy and then I piped up for the actual baptism part. And I didn't cry, which shocked many people there. Even though he was my own beloved one, my voice remained strong and steady. I grinned with delight and was very, very amped.
Then I slipped into the sacristy and put my pastor gear over my mom gear. I preached. My voice likely trembled a little while a preached. And then we feasted all afternoon.
A year later, I remember one thing: Mark asked me and Matt and Jasper's sponsors questions: Will we live among God's faithful people, bring Jasper to the Holy Supper, teach him the scriptures and pray for him? And will we do things things in such a way that Jasper can learn to believe in God, to trust in grace, to share the good news, care for justice and the world?
We answered - in unison, as parents and godparents - that we would and we would ask God to help us.
A year later, we are celebrating. Today is the day, though not how I would have planned or expected it. Today is a Tuesday and, while I usually work late into the night on Tuesdays, I didn't tonight. But Matt did, so it was just me in Jasper. I'm glad to break up Father-Son time these days because Jasper is losing his Mama's Boy persona. He's getting tough and dirty and adventurous and gives Matt more kisses than me. So yeah, Matt. Stay at work tonight and let me soak this one up.
Uncles came over for pizza and beer while we played in the sun-streaked yard. Then we loaded up the car for a special service in honor of cousin Berit. She was becoming a Consociate of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet in St. Paul and we were going to support her story and vows together with lots of faithful people who love God and vocation.
I have watched Matt's recent struggle to reign in a new level of boisterous boy in the pews with great admiration for his patience and great relief that I don't have to sit with them. It looks exhausting. There's no way Matt is being fed by worship while Jasper cries and reaches for me up front and gets bribed with Club crackers to shut up. But Matt persists anyway. He is and he's asking God to help him.
We didn't last long in the pews of this St. Paul chapel, so we played in the narthex. We bounced and read books and ate an orange and played tag and clapped and watched and cuddled. At one point, my shoes were off and I was lying on my back on the floor pretending to eat his nose. He giggled and touched it, as though he was making sure it stayed put. I showed him how to make a snow angel we'll call a tile angel and he thought that was hilarious.
Jasper, this is not what I had in mind for your grand and annual baptism ritual. I wanted to light your candle and read you a story from the Bible and have your godparents over for dinner and sing songs together. But why in the world did I think that would actually happen? And now that we're here and not doing that, that cliche I had in mind sounds a little boring. This will do. We are here in a sacred space with people who believe in God and vocation. We are slowing down and sitting together and for a moment, I am simply your mom in church. I haven't been that very often this year, so this is special.
He was exhausted by the time we arrived home and gladly dove into his crib. I lit his candle for a moment while I cleaned the kitchen in quiet peace. In between the messy chaos of a toddler loose and the peaceful loneliness of a sleepy house, I am and God is helping me.
This weekend we'll watch the May Day Parade from Bloomington Avenue with Jasper's godmother and celebrate new creation. But only for a few moments between my Sunday morning at Zion and a 3:30pm wedding I'm officiating. And that's life. That's the pull. But in between the here and the there, I am and God is helping me.