This past weekend my 5 month old niece Peaches got baptized. My 90 year old cousin, a retired bishop, performed the ceremony. According to my cousin who did seminary in Rome, the baptism is actually a form of exorcism. This sounds intense but my 90 year old cousin is gentle as a lamb. He was the most well liked bishop in the Pittsburgh dioceses before retiring and married all my older immediate family members, my parents included. While he did not marry my sister Skipper or my brother in law Boomer, he made a celebrity guest appearance on the alter.
Sure, I get the church wants to play it safe and all. As a lapsed Catholic, for as much as the exorcism trivia was cool, it was also a bit much. Peaches is a 5 month old baby. She still has her brand new car smell. This small being who cries, poops, but also has a way of eliminating all familial drama when she’s around should be celebrated. Plus an RC baptism is the parent’s first chance at starting the college fund. It’s not the day where Peaches sits up in her crib, her head spins around in a 180 and she screams, “Demi! Demi!” (Note: Peaches has projectile vomited on me before so there is that potential).
However, I will give the bishop this, Peaches is teething. Hell hath no fury like a teething baby. Peaches woke everyone up several times during the night because of the pain she was in. While I felt terribly for her ordeal, it also woke up the entire house. Her pooping schedule was also off, so there was the fear she would poop in the christening gown. I am sure she wouldn’t be the first baby to do so but still, a pooping baby in a white gown is the devil. So yeah, maybe my cousin had a point.
The most fascinating thing about a christening and a new family member is talking to the older family members. We were trying to figure out how old The Bishop was. “He’s gotta be 90.”
My sister in law Marie laughs, “Isn’t that old?”
My brother Wendell says, “No, he married our parents, aunts and uncles. He’s up there.”
At the party, we all try to figure it out. My Aunt Barb says, “He married my husband and I 46 years ago and he had been a priest a while. And he renewed our vows 25 years ago. He has to be at least 90. But he’s still driving. How is he doing that?”
The man who christened Peaches just might be immortal like the Highlander. However, in the event he wasn’t I decided to talk to him a little about his life. First, I wanted to figure out how we were related as I have 26 cousins in my immediate family alone. Apparently he is my now deceased grandfather’s cousin. The Bishop studied in Rome back in 1952, and was away for four years from his family because flight was so expensive. He talked about how Europe was after the war, and how there were certain Communist countries he could not visit with his friends. It was a world without internet, cellphones, GPS, and cable TV let alone Netflix.
Just as I was well aware of The Bishop’s age, I also became acutely aware of my own. The world he knows is different than the one I know and will also be different than the one Peaches will know. Someday, she will look up at me with her big blue eyes and ask, “Auntie April, what’s a CD?”
She will also say, “I saw an old movie, one from the 80s and they had landlines. How did people function?” I won’t lie. I will say the 80s and 90s were hell because living without a cellphone is war and war is hell. Okay, maybe I won’t but it sounds like something crazy an older relative will say. Even those thoughts make me acutely aware of my age.
I can safely say I have known Peaches for her entire life. About a year ago we did her gender reveal party. Skipper was sick every day as she was in the early throws of pregnancy and craved Stove Top Stuffing which Boomer was forced to cook. Before the party, Skipper called me on my way to school in California to inform she had, “A bun in the oven.” This was after she and Boomer returned from Bonnaroo. So yes, Peaches has already been to a hippie music festival.
I also feel old as I remember standing next to Skipper on her wedding day as maid of honor. Not only was it a lovely treat, but she was talking about having kids within three years. Then it seemed sort of scary because I had remembered Skipper as a young bride. When she tried on wedding dresses she started to weep stating, “I look like an adult woman who has a mortgage and pays her own cellphone bill!”
I also remember meeting Boomer for the first time. It was clear he liked my sister and she liked him back. Being the big sibling I asked him what his intentions were. He said he liked Skipper. I looked him in the eye like Clint Eastwood and said, “Man, if you mistreat Skipper in any way I will kill you.”
It since has become a running joke between the three of us. Boomer is a good guy and has morphed into a good father. Peaches for the most part is a good baby. Towards the end of the day, it was my shift. Her parents wanted a nap and my parents had to clean after the party. This meant I was on baby duty. We played with her toys which had the same song going in a loop. Songs that were stuck in my head for days and yes they are still haunting me in my sleep. Peaches also tried to eat the entire train because why not. After all, earlier in the day they gave her an exorcism for a reason, right. When she had the train taken away she got my finger and gripped onto it with her tiny fingers. Swayed by adoration and amazed by her strength, I was caught off guard when she stuck it in her mouth and bit on it with her half of a tooth. (I had also hoped I washed my hands). The Bishop was right. This kid was possessed by the devil.
After I yanked my finger out of her mouth Peaches started to hiccup and fuss. What to do? I don't have children and my parents are cleaning. Skipper and Boomer are sleeping. So I hiccup back. To my surprise Peaches laughs. She hiccups again, I hiccup back and she laughs again. It turns into a game. Now I am liking this. Peaches is an evil I can work with,“Peaches, you know your parents might not like this, but you might have a future in show business. Your Auntie April needs an opening act. Start working on your television 7. Save yourself a few years of grief. And as for that exorcism, we are all going to hell. You and I will just be in the back playing jokes on people.”