Monday, May 17, 2010

Gabby's First Communion

Not everybody gets a message wishing them "Mazel Tov on your First Communion!" so thanks, Mini, for your message of love from Israel on Gabby's special day!

And it was special, in so many ways! My Mom made it in, to help with all the last minute, frantic preparations. How were we going to entertain 30 people in this shoebox? I prayed. It worked. 70's and sunny, we spilled out mostly into the backyard. But not before we pushed out a few sweat beads in the church . . .

Gabby made her First Communion alone, not with her class. It was an option presented for families with other commitments, and we were happy to take it. On the official day, Kit and I had Girl Scout Encampment, and John, Gabby and Jack went to Connecticut to celebrate Bella's First Communion. This way, Gabby wouldn't be fussing in a sea of 50+ Communicants, we wouldn't be missing Fleming VIPs like Grandma and Pop, and Gabby would get to watch Bella, and anticipate her own big day. To add to that special weekend, Grandma Fleming took Gabby to buy a dress, and Bella passed on her veil.

Fr. Bill had met with us earlier in the week. That was a Fleming circus with all three kids running around the empty church. For single Communicants like Gabby, Fr. Bill usually invited them up on the altar for the Eucharistic Prayer. It was clear that Jack was only going to be happy if he got to go where Gabby was, and it was clear that if Gabby was going to be on the altar, the only place for her was in the pulpit. So we decided against that bonus. We were already infiltrating the service with Auntie Kitty set to be a Eucharistic minister, to give Gabby her first sip of wine (thus saving her from drinking the entire cup); and the little bouquet of cousins, Kit, Gabby, Fiona and Hannah taking up the gifts. With 14 family members expected to attend the church, we reserved two pews.

So Saturday night came, we welcomed everybody in from Jersey, sent them back to their hotel to change and made it to the church on time. Well, we made it, but . . . "They'll be here," we assured Fr. Bill, and Mass began. Gabby processed in with the altar servers and Fr. Bill but was clearly not happy that she did not get to continue up onto the altar. So she stood in the aisle and pouted, like a little miffed bride.

That of course, was not nearly enough drama for a Saturday night, so we continued with the operatic strains of Jack who just wanted to go! So John took him out, leaving me, my mom, Kit, and Gabby in two big long empty pews.

When Gabby's Catechism aide appeared (wasn't that sweet? I think she saw how empty our pews were and came to join us), I leaned back to her and whispered "I think you're going to have to take up some gifts!" Fortunately, right before the Gospel (which is as late as you can get and still have Mass "count") the rest processed in. Even John came back with Jack. It was close!

So, aside from Jack's continual whining, and Gabby the hostess working the pews, making sure she sat next to every single family member, the ceremony turned out great. The diamond moment came just after taking the bread and wine. Gabby settled herself back into the pew next to Nora this time and Nora said, "I'm so proud of you Gabby! What did you just have?"

Gabby answered, "I ate Christ."

No on had ever said those words to her. They were hers alone. Later, her Catechism teacher would say, "Leave it to Gabby, of all the kids, to get it." We have to believe, in some way, that that's true.

The lobby afterward was filled with Jack crying and us not getting photos and everybody talking and strangers congratulating Gabby, two in particular I will remember. They were young, and obviously sent over to us by their father who I turned to see was talking to father Bill. Couldn't Jack have just unleashed my leg for one moment? I guess I was not yet meant to meet Tim Shriver (Eunice Shriver's son, the man who is carrying Special Olympics forward). Maybe another Sunday . . .

The rest was a real summer celebration, with lots of children, wine and glowsticks. And just when it really didn't matter anymore, a perfectly happy Jack.

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