It’s fresh in my mind so I suppose now is a good time to write about yesterday. To say that it began like every other day wouldn’t be an accurate description because for Emma and her mother, it was almost a continuation of Saturday! Especially for Emma’s mother as she didn’t even get to bed on Saturday night. It was certainly busy!
It all began on Saturday at around 11AM. Emma’s mother arrived to Drogheda and immediately the wheels of motion were kicked up a gear. Of course, I had planned things almost five weeks before but Emma and her mother were really adamant that the personal touch was the key so they set about knitting, sowing, baking, cleaning and shopping. A timetable of events had been discussed and agreed and this commenced without delay at 11AM. Of course, as often happens during the lead up to any significant deadline, things go wrong. A fault in a product purchased especially for the occasion resulted in huge upset and torment as what had been a finished master piece had to be dismantled and recreated. This put considerable strain on the plans however, progress was made slowly until 1PM when a gentleman with a particularly feminine voice arrived to cut, shape and style heads. My head was fine so I hid for the duration of his visit. Mainly because there’s only so long I can listen to idle chit and chat about weddings, christenings, hair and babies. Méabh and I escaped for a short while to play with the dog outside while the women were beautifying themselves. I of course explained to Méabh that there’s really no improving on perfection and all this hair and beauty stuff is a big waste of time but I don’t think she really cared. Instead she tried to shove her fingers up my nose which was a very uncomfortable sensation. She obviously already values my opinion as much as the dog values ear medicine. When a considerable volume of hair had been left on the living room floor the preparations continued. Later that day another part of the jigsaw fell into place when two people from very different parts of the country both arrived into Drogheda. Nicky, a great friend for the past 26 years jumped at the chance to be god father for Méabh. Well, he actually didn’t jump. We were in a restaurant in Drogheda at the time and if I recall correctly, he continued sitting at the table. There was no big gesture of disbelief or joyfulness when I made the request but in fairness, I’m sure he knew he was going to be asked which lessened the surprise considerably. The other person to arrive in Drogheda is of course no less important. In fact, she actually may be even more important than the god father. She is the partner in crime of the god father. The poor Girl, let’s call her Jenny for now, actually puts up with Nicky on a regular basis! It is a misconception that Jenny is quiet. She merely conserves her strength so that she can deliver the optimal force necessary for an ear flick when she feels that Nicky has stepped too far out of line. These ear flicks have been witnessed to be quite effective and Jenny should be commended for developing this most difficult of skills. Jenny came on horseback all the way from Donegal. It’s not because they don’t have the facilities that we enjoy in the rest of the world, it’s because they are so generous, and they’ve donated them to Carlow because….. Carlow don’t.
On Saturday night, Emma’s mother was abandoned in our house with a few ounces of milk, a bottle, her knitting, a television, a large supply of tea oh and of course a baby. Again, this was a carefully arranged exit. Ahead of time, we planned to securely lock the living room door and before any profanities could be shouted, we bolted from the house hastily locking the front door and porch behind us. A few seconds later, the area was filled with the sound of a revving car and burning rubber as we retreated for the first independent social gathering since Méabh was born five weeks ago. We met up with Jenny and Nicky for a very nice meal in a local restaurant before adjourning for a single non-alcoholic beverage back at their hotel. It was an early night for some but a very enjoyable night for everyone. When we returned to the house, Méabh had already been taught four styles of knitting! I asked her about it but Mammies funny faces had her in stiches so I didn’t get much out of her.
Because of the remastering of the master piece that had been finished but now had to be remastered, Emma’s mother spent over twelve hours straight trying to complete the finishing touches. Emma was also working hard adding buttons to the christening dress, making the bonnet and adding the decoration to the icing on the christening cake. I felt utterly useless so to keep out of the way, I went to bed. That was actually very effective! You should try it some time. At 3 in the morning, I awoke to find them both still at it. I pleaded with them to take a break but they had their minds set on finishing everything. Fortunately, Emma made enough progress so she was happy to get some sleep for a few hours. I’m glad she did! Could you imagine if she hadn’t slept? I’d probably have been stabbed with a pallet knife by now! I didn’t even know what a pallet knife was until Saturday by the way.
Anyway, the Sun pushed the darkness out of the way on Sunday morning and the day started as it sometimes does. Preparations continued. Méabh had a bath, we showered and Nama got groomed. The house was filthy but we were clean! Emma’s father came over and as previously arranged, I went with him to where we would celebrate after the official part of the christening was over. I wanted to set up the amplification so that music was playing for people when they arrived. I knew that we would be a little late getting there from the church so it would be nice to put some thought into how the place was presented. After that, it was a downhill freewheel until the big event.
At 1PM we arrived in St. Peters church in West Street. Ten and a half months earlier we were married in this same church so it was really nice to go back so soon to christen our first child. St. Peters is also where my grandparents on my mother’s side were married 56 years ago. It’s a spectacular church right in the centre of Drogheda but it now holds a lot of meaning for us. When I walked in, I was a little worried as the church was empty aside from people that we had invited to the christening. Usually there can be up to ten babies christened at one time so I expected the church to be a hive of activity. To our delight, we were told that Méabh was the only baby to be christened. Father Jim came out to us a short time later and began the service.
Now, I am not a religious person. I’m not going to go into it. Everyone has the right to their beliefs or lack thereof. I respect every belief but I don’t share them. Getting Méabh christened was something that I felt I had to allow happen. Of course, Emma had an equal say in this. What I mean is, although I don’t share the same beliefs as the church, I recognise the impact of not having a baby baptised. This impact manifests itself socially in early years when other children are preparing for communion and confirmation but it can have other ramifications in later years for marriage and even a funeral. It would be irresponsible for me to preclude my child from the conventions, and benefits that others in the country share by default because I don’t have the same religious beliefs. It is very unfortunate but that’s the reality as I see it. If the decision impacted me alone, I would not allow myself to be influenced like this but for Méabh, Emma and everyone else in my family, I embrace the religious ceremonies. Now, I’m sorry if this insulted anyone. It wasn’t my intention. The point I am actually trying to make here is, unknown to Father Jim, he made the Baptism of Méabh a very special occasion for me right from the start. He began by saying that a christening is a welcome. It is a welcome to Méabh into our community, into our lives and into our hearts. I felt that it was a lovely way to put it. I believe that church is a necessary social construct that has bound us for thousands of years. I don’t know if the god concept is accurate but I do believe that life is better when people share and contribute to a community. There were about 55 people at the christening yesterday most of whom hadn’t seen Méabh before. The christening was a way of introducing Méabh to them and a way for them to welcome Méabh into our community. That opening sentence for me changed the act of baptism from a pointless tick box filling exercise into a celebration that had a lot of meaning and relevance.
The church part of the celebration finished before 2PM and after what felt like an eternity of picture taking and poses, we left to go to the function room in the Thatch. We had some food and music organized there so it was a really nice way to spend a Sunday afternoon. One of the highlights of the afternoon for me was definitely meeting up with Andrew and Trudy again. Because I’ve been so busy, I haven’t had any time for socializing or playing music so I hadn’t played a few tunes with them since August!
The rest as they say is history. Méabh Caitlín Ní Éiligh was christened in St. Peters church in West Street Drogheda on Sunday 17th November 2013 at 1PM. Godfather is Nicky and god mother is Josie. Incidentally, it was Josie that was Emma’s brides made and Nicky who was my best man at our wedding on New Year’s Eve.
I’m sure I can speak for Emma as well when I thank absolutely every single person who helped and who came to Méabh’s christening yesterday. It was better than either of us could have hoped and I am delighted that so many were there to welcome our daughter into the world and into our community.