What Do You Ask of This Church?

Joey was baptized last Sunday; for days afterwards, his head smelled like balsam—like the oil of chrism. Our church requires parents to attend a class the day before the baptism, and our teacher started off the class by telling us that she had adopted her daughter as a newborn sixteen years ago, and you just won’t believe how the time flies.

No one at my church knows about Cricket. I feel guilty about the sinking feeling that started when our instructor mentioned adopting a baby from Russia; she also helped us to find proxies for Cricket’s godparents, and “They adopted a baby too!” It was another international adoption, not Russia, but I can’t remember from where. Guatemala? They were perfectly nice people, and I spent the morning slightly preoccupied with feeling bad about feeling bad. They asked us the same question that I’ve been asked dozens of times at church: “Is he your first?”

I know the right answer: “No, I placed a child for adoption a few years ago; I baptized him myself in a motel room. I didn’t have a lot of time. Oh, and his moms don’t know.” I’ve been feeling increasingly guilty as my less than perfectly honest answers pile up, but I keep answering the same way. If I thought that there was any possibility that Cricket would one day visit the church I would give the better answer, but there isn’t a snowball’s chance. I’ve also considered telling only the priest, just so that someone knows—but I haven’t, and most likely won’t.

So Joey is really and officially Catholic now. His baptism was the first time that Mr. Book had come to the church, and he seemed to like it. All in all, it feels a bit like taking another step away from Cricket’s life. We’ve been to Ruth and Nora’s synagogue, once, but while I’ve let them know that we’d be glad to take them to church if ever they wanted to see what ours is like, they are not going to come. And fair enough, of course—but it’s just another point of disconnection now.

I don’t want to give the impression that I was moping through Joey’s big day. In fact, I was excited for him and delighted that everything worked out. I was absurdly proud that people admired him, and several parishioners came over to bless him—and I was grateful and pleased. I’m happy to let people be handsy on Sunday mornings because I want them to feel as though Joey belongs to the community; I want him to have that community looking out and praying for him. It helps that he’s a shameless flirt, smiling and cooing at anyone who tries to get his attention during the service. How weird that he might be an extrovert! His dad and I are so far to the other end of the scale—of course, my introverted parents ended up with one extrovert out of four kids, so I suppose it does happen.

I’m missing Cricket right now. Ruth has said that they might be able to visit in April, and I’m hoping to do a better job of trying to connect with him this time; it’s easy to blame our circumstances for the fact that I feel more and more distant from him, but my standoffishness with him is surely part of the problem. Maybe our lives will continue to grow apart, but I can try harder to build something with him. I’ve got to.

14 thoughts on “What Do You Ask of This Church?

  1. Congratulations on your big day with Joey!!!

    Please don’t beat yourself up too much for not being “honest.” You are honest with yourself, SusieBook, and that’s the most important.

  2. What a wonderful milestone in Joey’s life! It’s great that he will feel at home in the church with its caring community. I’m so glad Mr. Book had a good experience too. I second what Dawn wrote about not beating yourself up. I bet you are missing Cricket so much since your last visit, and I really hope it works out to see him next month.

  3. Ouch. What you write is your truth, but it is painful for this adoptee. What about when Cricket is a teen and perhaps comes to see you? Will you avoid church so that you don’t have to explain him? It really hurts to be the skeleton in the closet.

    I am sad for all the secrets you feel you must keep. It must be hard, but it is also hard to be the one denied.

    • Yeah, I’ve thought about this—and if it came to that, I’d tell people at church before he came. If it ever gets close to being his problem, I’ll rat myself out.

  4. Sarah, I would say that Cricket counts very much. Why are his feelings unimportant? It really hurts to have your mom keep you secret. I lknow from personal experience. It could be that Cricket won’t care, but from what I have seen in different situations, taking the path of least resistance can have repercussions. Just my opinion.

    • I think every birthparent ends up having to walk a line between never telling even a future spouse and announcing him to every well-meaning stranger who asks whether you have kids. I don’t think of myself as keeping him a secret, full stop—and yet, I do some times deny him, usually telling myself that in the sense that the asker means, yes, Joey is my first.

  5. I wondered if you are Catholic, I am too but I guess you might have figured that out with my name and that I have a bunch of kids, and if you baptized cricket.

    I’m not stalking, your writing is lovely and your responses to tough questions elegant.

    • Thank you! I only had Cricket for a day, but I baptized him myself, in the motel room. His moms don’t know.

      edit: yup, I went through RCIA my senior year of high school.

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