When I was a little girl, everybody had a big party when a baby was born. A new baby got baptized as soon as possible after it was born, so Mom was busy with all the party preparation. Sometimes she was so busy, she didn’t even go to the baptism. It was more important for the godparents to be there, so Mom stayed home and got the meal ready so everybody could eat after the baptism.
Being a godmother or godfather was serious stuff. If the real parents died, the godparents took over, or if the real parents forgot to teach the baby about Jesus and left out church or catechism, then it was up to the godmother to either give the parents a good talking too, or take over and make sure that child learned about god; ’cause if that child went to hell, it was the godmother’s fault for not taking her job serious. I wasn’t sure, but that was probably a sin for the godmother too, ’cause if I was God, I’d be pretty mad at that godmother. The godfather ‘s supposed to do all that stuff, too, but everybody knows that men are busy working and putting food on the table, so they don’t have time to take kids to catechism, where all the teaching about the rules happens. And when it’s time to get ready for church, fathers sometimes lose track of their own socks, let alone help out with getting kids ready.
My godmother was Mom’s cousin, Irene, who lived in Chicago. That’s why I always got picked to go with Grandma and Grandpa when they went there. That, and I just loved those museums. Irene forgot all about me being her godchild, but I reminded her every time I saw her. It was okay though, ’cause Mom was on top all the stuff that had to do with me walking the straight and narrow and getting to heaven. She made sure I went to confession every Saturday and I said an Act of Contrition anytime I got in the car with Grandpa. A sincere Act of Contrition would save me from going straight to hell if I died with a mortal sin on my soul. I’d still have to do some time in Purgatory on a slow simmer. I was pretty sure I was clear of mortal sins, but no sense in taking any chances. Irene said she had a half-dozen godchildren, she couldn’t keep track of them all. I only had one godmother, and I had a really, really good memory. I never lost track of her.
Uncle Ken was my godfather. I remember him from before he got married, but after that, he moved to New England, and I hardly ever saw him. Uncle Ken was super smart and the tallest man I ever saw. He had thick black hair and he always stood up straight and tall. Uncle Ken had a smile that said, ‘There’s nothing to worry about, I have everything in control.’ I just loved Uncle Ken.
If a baby died before she got baptized, she never got to see the face of God. She had to go to a place called Limbo, which was a happy place, but no God. I thought maybe the nuns and priests made that up to scare parents into getting their babies baptized before much time went by. Parents forgot about a lot of things: Mom and Dad forgot to name Deanna, and once they left Frankie behind and got all the way home before they realized he was still at church. Limbo made no sense at all to me. Why would God make a baby and then put it someplace where he never saw it? Babies are so beautiful, they have the softest skin, and most the time they smell so nice. Everybody smiles when a baby comes in the room. For sure God would be smiling with any baby around, even one with a tinsy stain on her soul, that was just left over from Adam and Eve.
We had a baptism at church today. Little Laura Ann, made the whole place light up, just by being there. She cried a little, but Father Steve held her close to his chest and said, “Welcome, Laura Ann, we are your family. Then he scooped a little water on her head, recited the baptismal rites, and kissed her forehead. Everyone smiled and clapped to welcome her into our family of God. Laura Ann is too young to remember any of this, she is just an infant, hardly able to hold her head up by herself. The important thing is, everyone there will remember. I know I will. We’ve got your back, Laura.