Sunday was First Communion and Confirmation Day in the Reidy household, and the house was a hive of activity from early morning. Children in Saskatchewan are confirmed and receive communion in Grade 2, so Christopher and Isabel were being confirmed, and Benjamin was being confirmed and receiving First Communion. All the preparation is done during classes at our church, St. Anne’s, which is very different from Ireland, where the school is heavily involved. I wasn’t sure how to feel about the day, as it’s not a separate occasion like it is in Ireland, and I felt that the absence of family and friends would be difficult. It turned out to be very different, but really enjoyable and memorable.
We arrived at the church at 10.30am so that the children could don their white capes and get their last-minutes instructions from Erin, the catechist who had led the classes for the last few months. The rest of us took our seats in our reserved pew, along with Eddie and June, who had kindly agreed to be the children’s sponsors. Bishop Don Bolen, a very engaging and genial man, was leading the service, and the choir was fabulous. We kicked off with one of those foot-tapping gospel songs, and it set the tone from there. All the children were asked to stand while the Bishop chatted with them about the two sacraments and asked them questions about what they had learned during their classes. Rebecca insisted on standing on the pew beside them, and was hanging onto every word from his mouth. “So, what happened when Jesus died? How do you think his friends felt?”, asked the Bishop. A little boy in the front put up his hand. “They were sad”, he declared solemnly. “Very good”, said the Bishop, “they were sad”. He turned to the other side of the aisle, where another boy was flapping his hand at him. “They were reeeallllly sad”, the child affirmed gravely. Muffled laughter. “And what happened to Jesus after that?” asked the Bishop. “He ROSE!”, proclaimed Rebecca in bell-like tones. “Well!”, said the Bishop, taken aback, “you’re almost ready for the sacraments already!”. She preened. The congregation laughed. We braced ourselves for what might be the next statement out of her mouth.
Isabel, Christopher and Benjamin were confirmed then, with all of us standing beside them in front of the altar, and Mass continued until Communion time, when all of the children went to the altar first in their white capes, to receive Communion and wine. The faces of disgust when the wine was taken were very funny. “Yuck!”, pronounced the angelic-looking little girl in front of us. There was a group photo of them all at the end, and then the Bishop stood with all of the children in turn for individual photos. It’s impossible to get three children to smile at the same time; I have endless photos with one of them gurning, or scowling, or baring their teeth. It was a great morning; I loved every minute of the ceremony, and the kids were delighted with it all. It was different to Christopher’s and Isabel’s First Communion, but just as special, and there was a real sense of being part of the community.
We had cookies and juice afterwards, and then we all headed to Boston Pizza with James, Kelly, Jay and Nikki. I think that bringing children to restaurants is sort of like labour, to be honest. It’s hideous at the time, and then you forget about it enough to contemplate doing it again. Five minutes into the next trip out for food, you remember why it’s not a good idea, and make a mental note to eat at home for the next ten years at least. It took ages for the kids to decide what they wanted, and then the food took quite a while to arrive, which meant that they were getting antsy, bored, and hungry, never a good combination. Eventually, dinner arrived, and we all tucked in. The kids wanted Jello for dessert, and the waitress appeared with some tubs containing a weirdly lurid blue jelly. Thankfully, the ingredients weren’t on the label, probably because the list of e-numbers wouldn’t fit. I felt it would be safer for my mental health to remain in blissful ignorance and just let them at it. Rebecca’s mouth was completely blue for the next four hours. We drove home, exhausted, shrugged off our lovely outfits in favour of pyjamas, and lolled around the sitting-room for the rest of the evening.
Rebecca was four yesterday, a momentous day for her that has been eagerly anticipated for the last couple of weeks. She snuck into our bed in the middle of the night, and I woke up to find one beady little eye squinting up at me. “Is THIS my birthday?”, she enquired hopefully, and was overjoyed to be finally told “YES!”. She shot out of the bed and stood in front of me, shivering with excitement. “Am I bigger?” she asked anxiously. I considered her carefully. “Definitely”, I proclaimed. “That’s ‘cos I’m FOUR!”, she yelled and hurtled off to tell the rest of them. Presents from Granny and Aunty Louise were rooted out of their hiding place and she shredded the wrapping paper at light speed. For most children, clothes are a boring present; for Rebecca, it’s nirvana. She just loves getting new clothes. Every morning, I brace myself for the battle of getting her dressed. She scoffs at some outfits, sneers at others, carefully considers every article of clothing in her wardrobe, and dismisses any suggestions scathingly; “that doesn’t go with that, Mom!”. Then we have to make sure that she is correctly shod, which involves another fifteen minutes of her trying on all her shoes and bemoaning the fact that they don’t match her outfit, until eventually she settles on her wellies as the ideal accompaniment.
So, the clothes from Ireland were a huge hit, and had to be donned immediately in order to go out to the shops. She told every single person that she met that it was her birthday, and basked in their good wishes. I sometimes glimpse the teenage years, and have to hurriedly close that part of my mind. She had requested a chocolate fudge cake with strawberries, which we made that afternoon, and then we waited for the guests to arrive – June and Eddie, Kelly and James, Jay and Nikki, and Connie and Gerry, who arrived from Ireland last week. It was a great evening of chat and laughter; we are so lucky to have such wonderful people around us.
Nicholas had his first school trip on Wednesday; an expedition to Blackstrap Lake. He got up at six, charged downstairs to get breakfast, (much to Michael’s surprise when he appeared), shot back upstairs again, and threw himself on top of Benjamin. I opened one eye, looked at the clock, and carted him back to our bed, where he sat and fidgeted until 7.30am. By the time we had packed his backpack with spare clothes and lunch, he was incoherent with excitement. Off he went, to hike through the woods, examine bones and insects, toast hot dogs and marshmallows over a firepit, climb trees and build teepees. He came back at 3.30pm, exhausted, filthy and delighted with the day.
Christopher’s teacher rang me that morning to tell me that he had fallen into a very large puddle during a walk around the park, and had soggy tracksuit bottoms. Apparently, he wasn’t “used to walking on ice”. I was out at the shops – on my own – while Rebecca was at playschool, and was almost as excited about this fact as Nicholas had been about the trip. “Tell him I’ll bring him dry clothes when I pick up Rebecca”, I said, “and tell him he’s a twit”. I arrived at 11.30am with his change of clothes, and discovered that my sons were really making their presence felt in school that day. Benjamin had asked Michael to re-inflate his soccer ball on Tuesday night, and brought it into school to play with at recess. Once recess was over, he left under the teacher’s desk, where it sat quietly for a while, biding its time, and then exploded at the teacher’s feet. Well. I don’t know how he didn’t just keel over with the fright. He jumped out of his skin, along with all the students, and that was the end of the soccer ball. When Benjamin brought in another one yesterday to play with, his first words were “NOT to be left under my desk, Benjamin!”
Last, but not least, Spring has finally sprung, and we’re basking in sunshine and temperatures of 10 degrees today. Part of this weekend will be devoted to washing, drying and putting away all of our winter gear; with any luck I won’t have to retrieve it from the recesses of the wardrobes until November.