Oliver’s christening gown was white cotton batiste with bishop smocking. A sleeveless slip with a button closure came with it for the baby to wear underneath, like the smoked day gown they had purchased, and then he’d never worn. A ruffled bonnet had come with the gown, but Stewart, Emily’s husband, had unequivocally refused to entertain the bonnet as a reality. Emily didn’t care about the bonnet, she wasn’t really sure at what point in the Anglican service the child, regardless of gender, would wear the bonnet, especially since his head would be first touched with water, then anointed by the priest. The bonnet later proved irrelevant when the dog got it from the laundry room and ate it anyhow. Oliver was happy in his gown; it was a nine month size, despite the fact that he was only four and a half months when he was baptized. He was in the seventy fifth percentile for height, so sizing charts were relative. Emily’s own outfit she was especially proud of, a beige silk shantung suit with a wide portrait collar, with elegant beaded detail. She’d thought it was very ladylike and grown up, and she wanted Oliver to be proud of her when he’d look at these pictures later. When Evelyn was staying with them when Oliver was only a few weeks old, Emily had cried during one of the many nighttime feedings and told Evelyn that she wanted desperately for Oliver to be proud of her. Evelyn patiently asked Emily if she was proud of her. Emily responded, ‘of course,’ with no pause, it was a silly, obvious question in her opinion. ‘Well, why are you proud of me?’ Evelyn continued. This answer was easy, Emily quickly rattled off the multitude of reasons, ‘You were an incredible mother, you raised us with good values and morals, you gave us enough freedom, you encouraged our interests and at the same time, you had your own identity and life and an incredible career. Who wouldn’t be proud of you?’ Evelyn smiled, ‘that’s all you have to do, then.’ Emily laughed through her tears.
Evelyn and William had flown in for the christening, as had Grace. They had gone shopping together, without Stewart, the Saturday before the service. William had held Oliver on a couch in the clothing store, as Grace had tried on dinner suits and gowns and Emily had perused the hats. Grace sashayed out of the dressing room in a column of emerald sequins, cinched at the waist. ‘Hello, dahling,’ she said dramatically, with a spokes model like arm gesture. She looked ready to be the life of the party, as she often was. She also tried on a textured brown suit, feminine with its cinched waist and broad, soft edged lapels. That suit had been Evelyn’s favorite on Grace. Emily had found a black hat, with an angled crown and a three dimensional feather decoration. She didn’t have any black hats, just several spring light colored hats, and had decided to buy it. William held Oliver on his knee, bouncing like a horsey, reciting, ‘this is the way the lady rides, trippity trot, trippity trot, this is the way the gentleman rides, gallop gallop, this is the way the farmer rides, jiggity jog, jiggity jog.’ The last segment, William’s knee went from side to side, causing Oliver to gurgle and smile his still toothless bottom jaw visible.
The next day, at the christening, Oliver had been fussy during the service before the actual event, and after the actual event, the clergy had taken the five babies being baptized that service and walked them up and down the aisle for the congregation to see. During the rehearsal, one of the priests had calmly told the parents that while the clergy members had their children, they were absolutely safe, but they might not remember where the baby had come from, so if the parents would flag down the relevant clergy member, that would be helpful. Emily had giggled. They had been assigned the first pew, based on where they fell in the alphabet, the rector of the parish had been the member of the clergy to take Oliver up and down the aisle. Emily’s close friend Mary Frances, had attended that service. She and her husband, early risers, God bless them, usually went even earlier, to the seven am service. Mary Frances had sweetly told Emily later on that Oliver was the best baby when they were being walked up and down the aisle, he was the only one smiling and looking happy. Emily and Stewart had laughed, Oliver’s disposition was incredibly friendly and happy and they thought this part of the service would have been his favorite. Mary Frances had added that all the other babies, although sweet and adorable, were not as good as Oliver. She had given Oliver an embroidered handkerchief with his name, date and a cross. Emily had been so touched and amazed; it was such a creative and wonderful present. Grace had given Oliver a tiny white bible, it was beyond precious. Evelyn and William had brought a three headed dragon puppet, with metallic scales and pleated chiffon wings, it was a wonderful toy and often made an appearance when Emily and Oliver hosted playgroup.
The godparents, Ellen and Hastings, were delightful people. Emily and Stewart felt so honored to have had them to ask, and especially by their joyful response. Emily and Ellen saw each other nearly once a week for lunch or for a walk. Ellen was just a few years older than Emily and had two little girls, Camille and Alden. Ellen was a tall, delicate blonde, with a heart shaped face, framed by voluminous waves of blonde. Her neck and collarbones were slender and feminine; Emily noticed that scoop necklines and sweetheart necklines were beautiful on her. Emily had been so grateful to get to know her in the last two years and had counted herself lucky to have such a thoughtful and kind friend. Emily also found it amusing, though, that she and Ellen were both Scorpios, full of passion and sometimes hot reactions. Emily truthfully thought Ellen handled her own Scorpio passion better than she did, to which Emily was sure Ellen would say, ‘Well, I don’t think so, but that is a very kind thing to say.’ Emily admired Ellen greatly. She viewed her not only as a friend with a kind heart, but also as some one that could show her how to handle situations she wasn’t sure of, especially things having to do with parenting or awkward social situations.
After the sermon, the christening itself was done, and Ellen, Hastings, Camille and Alden came up with Emily, Stewart and Oliver to witness the actual act itself. Before the service, Emily had invited Camille and Alden to come up with them, both girls had politely agreed. Ellen amusingly told Emily that this morning she had a ‘serious talk’ with her girls, telling them that they were going to become god sisters and it was an important responsibility. Alden, the younger of the two, had pulled her mother aside later on and furtively asked, ‘is there such a thing as god sisters?’ Ellen had answered, ‘I don’t know, really, but if there is, it is very important.’ Emily had been so tickled, first by the ‘serious talk,’ which was so endearing, and then by the interchange between Alden and Ellen. Truthfully, Emily was surprised that Ellen had conceded to Alden that she didn’t know, Emily thought that Evelyn would have probably kept that detail to herself. But Emily was impressed, impressed by the honestly and respect with which Ellen interacted with her daughters, and she tucked this story away in her mind, thinking that this graceful handling of an important subject would be a good guide.
During their visit, Evelyn and William watched Oliver for Emily while she went to two appointments. Evelyn had caught a cold on the plane ride over, so the heavy lifting of changing diapers, feeding, wiping up drool and spit up fell to William. William was on the quiet side and it was very interesting to watch him interact with Oliver. William’s sense of humor came out- he was attempting to teach the baby to say things like, ‘where can I find a good hotel?’ and ‘je suis un enfant!’ and ‘pass the butter please.’ When jokingly asked about his childcare methods, William responded he was teaching the baby to speak English as a first language, like a language tape, and then he’d recite, ‘it’s a pleasure to meet you, Mrs. Smith,’ and ‘what a lovely yellow hat.’ He had been an unlikely babysitter, but an enthusiastic and caring one. Emily had been amused by how engaged he was when watching Oliver.
Ode to Pimento Cheese
Pimento cheese, for those of you that aren't familiar, is a little like a 'cheese salad,' the way chicken salad is a 'salad.' It is shredded cheese with a few chopped pimentos and it's held together with mayonnaise and sometimes a little of the pimento juice from the jar. There are additional variations using shredded onion and mustard that I've also seen. It is a singularly outstanding food item that is very popular in the South. It is used as a sandwich filling and as a dip. While it is often a humble food, it has been reinvented and elevated with new varieties of cheese- I've had a Vermont sharp cheddar pimento cheese that was so good, the friend eating with me was concerned she wouldn't be able to get any in her state and was vexed at how to be able to replicate it at home. Here is a poem I wrote about pimento cheese!
Ode to Pimento Cheese
Oh, Pimento Cheese,
I used to be too scared to try you,
Until you were made for me by someone from the Bayou.
Now I enjoy your salty taste,
And sample your varieties without haste!
I have had you as a dip and as a spread,
As a tea time sandwich between two slices of bread.
As I contemplate your elegant simplicity in my mouth,I know now why you are the pate of the South!