I suppose I really am a sucker for tradition, because just when I was thinking, “Sure, let’s give Mass a miss this year,” I felt compelled to go. Since neither of us wanted to go the whole half-hour to Canandaigua, we trekked our usual five minutes to St. Cate’s. This is the parish that put the Nicene Creed to song; I don’t call it Catholic Idol for nothin’. But you know what? Despite its fancies and its foibles, St. Cate’s is still my hometown church. Also, I’m going to a wedding there in six months, and I kinda need to be up on the order of things. So!
I decided about nine minutes before the start of the service that I wanted to go. I think Mum and I scooted in right behind the priest. Since it’s Christmas, we were in the CRO section (Chapel Room Only), way in the rear, no hymnbooks, no pews. That was okay, though, because we found Auntie Pat sitting all alone — and let me tell you, her face lit up when we walked in. She was terribly lonely, you see, not just basking in the solitude or, um, reading a Terry Pratchett novel. [cough] She lost her mother, what, two years back? Three? And there I was, earlier in the day, missing my grandmother across the sea.* Obviously, we needed each other.
So I sat on my rickety metal folding chair through the whole service, except for the part where everyone who hasn’t sinned lately goes to take communion. Auntie Pat wasn’t standing for anything — why do you think she has a walker? — so I decided to stay seated, too, partly out of solidarity and partly because the sit down/stand up/hup hup hup tuckers my tuchis out something fierce. There was not as much caroling this year during the service, though the whole rest of the service is an exercise in vocal gymnastics. NYSSMA** sightreading is easier.
I do think we should have done a rousing round of “Adeste Fideles” instead of, oh my God, “Christmas Makes Me Cry”. I thought we were celebrating a miraculous birth? A time to mourn, a time to dance? Did we just throw all of that by the wayside? The only reason to cry in the middle of Mass is the five hundred discordant perfume notes coming to a crescendo as we mix and mingle.***
Also, I’m pretty sure the priest forgot which Pope we were on. — This guy’s special. If St. Cate’s were a college, he would totally be in the science fiction club. He’s… quirky. Yes. But some of the quirks are awesome, like the Christmas tradition of reading a kids’ book for the homily. He had families bring the Jesuses from their nativity sets and, because he wants to be One Of Us, included his own (“It’s my mom and dad’s.”) in the blessing. Said blessing, by the way, bore eerie similarity to rituals I performed as a wee witch, right down to the evergreen branch and the blessed water. Hey, common roots.
BUT IT DOESN’T MATTER. No. Spending time with close-to-kin matters, and that was an hour and a half I didn’t count on having with Auntie Pat. We will, of course, pay her a holiday visit. If I get a milk foamer tomorrow morning, I can even bring over chai lattes for all. Well, I can bring the makings and demonstrate. I wonder if we’ll have any mincemeat pie to spare?
Whatever you celebrate, if you celebrate, I hope you have a good time. I’ll be over here celebrating with Nanny Fine and George Lopez.
love from a caffeinated
* By the way, that grandmother? Told my uncle “I’ve had enough champagne” and then, as soon as he left the room, told my aunt, “Give me some more of that stuff.” She will be having goose tomorrow and Tante Rosi will be trying the Number 9 at Bamberg’s one and only Thai-Bavarian fusion restaurant.
I couldn’t make my family up.
** New York Sadists Subject Musicians to Agony — er, New York State School Music Association. Why, yes, I have fond memories of solo festivals.
*** Yes, I’m guilty there, too. I’m sorry, chapel. I forgot how strong my Vera Wang is. Man, that sounded like a dirty joke. Hello, mouth-brain filter; I think you are malfunctioning again.