We started with Mass. The girls were eager as they hurried through breakfast and got dressed. I was a little afraid, going by myself with all three kids. Ben was already cranky and rubbing his eyes before we left. I warned the girls that he might not let us stay. But it worked.
We met a nice elderly man in the parking lot who took pity on me and offered to carry Sophie. I thanked him and declined but he scooped her up anyway. For his pains he received an earful of shrill Sophie-scream… delayed by her famous long intake so he thought he was all clear. He was good humored but chagrined as he put her back down, muttering something about humility.
We sat front and center. Every eye in the church would be drawn to any antics. Then again, my children’s eyes would be drawn to the altar. A gamble with a long walk of shame if we had to retreat. Everyone was good, though. Not perfect, mind you. Ben dropped his blanket just before the consecration and Bella dashed out of the pew to get it as everyone knelt. Then Sophie fell off the pew just before the elevation of the chalice. But she didn’t scream. I scooped her up and managed to hold both her and Ben. Quite a balancing act.
After Mass was over we walked the circumference of the church, examining the new Stations of the Cross. A few elderly people who had stayed to pray gave me benevolent smiles as I conducted a rudimentary catechism with Bella. One young man met my glance and smiled slightly. I smiled back, glad we weren’t being a nuisance to anyone. We looked at all the statues, took our time as we can’t really do this on Sundays. Sophie excitedly pointed to the photograph of Pope Benedict in the vestibule and to the statues of Mary and Jesus and to all the flowers.
When we finally made our way to the car we were met there by the young man who had smiled at me. He pulled his little red car up next to my minivan and got out holding a black picture frame. “I wanted to let you get to your car since your hands are full,” he explained as he handed it to me, turning it to reveal a smiling Padre Pio holding a crucifix. “I had an extra. Do you know who it is?”
“Oh yes. Saint Padre Pio! Wow! Thank you so much!” He introduced himself and I introduced all the kids. He held his hand out to Ben and smiled, called him “Bro”. And then he left. I didn’t have time to think to ask him why. Why me? Why Padre Pio? But maybe it’s better that way. A little bit of grace.
I put Padre Pio on the driver’s seat and then we carried some boxes of envelopes (for the diocesan appeal) to the parish office. Dom had asked me to drop them off. The sweet lady in the office asked if we wanted to see Father so I said yes. I asked him if he could give Sophie a special blessing on her day. Both girls were tongue-tied around him, probably in part because of the lollipops she gave them while we were waiting for Father to finish his phone call.
As we left the office, the girls headed toward the grotto to see Mary still crowned with Sunday’s wreath. Then they chased starlings across the lawn until I called them back to the car.
At home I put Ben down for his nap and then the girls and I baked a lemon cake. (From a box. I’m ambitious but not crazy.)
Then they licked the beaters clean. (What do you do when there are more kids than beaters? I don’t recall.)
Poor Sophie kept wondering when she was going to eat the cake. I can’t count how many times I explained that we had to wait until after dinner so that daddy could have some too. After dinner was so long to wait. While I was cooking dinner, she gouged a couple of holes in the unfrosted cake. Silly me for leaving it where she could get at it.
In the end I took pity on the poor hungry girl and let her have a bit more of the cake before dinner when I was trimming it. After all, it was her day. And dinner was running a bit late.
After dinner we let Sophie open her presents. (Presents!!!)
She got a little statue of her patron, St. Therese.
And a little triptych of the Holy Family. Oh she loved opening and shutting it!
And a book of saints stories. Which Ben promptly appropriated for himself. Bella also made a grab for it. She seems to think all books belong to her.
We lit her baptismal candle and—at Bella’s prompting—sang Regina Caeli. And then a round of “Happy Baptism Day to you.” Then Sophie almost singed her hair trying to blow out the candle. Bella had to do the actual blowing.
And finally we ate cake. Bella declared that it was a fun day. And I think Sophie thought so too. I’m pretty pleased with the way this family tradition is shaping up.