Sunday, April 8, 2012

Life Story: On the Day I Was Baptized


When I turned eight years old I asked my oldest brother Steve to baptize me. He was eighteen years old, a senior in high school and a priest in our ward. On a gray morning in late March we joined our family and friends at the baptismal font in the church up the street. With shaking hands and a nervous voice he said a prayer and immersed my body in the water and brought me back up again.
I was taught my baptism would be symbolic of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the death and birth of my own soul and make an official member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Because Mormons do not baptize children until they are eight years old, my baptism was shared with fellow second graders who lived in my neighborhood. There was a steady stream of us, boys and girls going in and out of the water.
I've thought about this seemingly magic age of eight years old, and I've wondered if it takes the human mind eight years to completely forget heaven, and if in forgetting heaven we start to develop faith instead of memory. I remember thinking, on that Forsythia-dotted morning, that being baptized was the most grown up thing I had done to date. It was the first time I really owned my own decision.
After the service I told my dad I wanted to go to brunch. At the time he told me we could only afford to go to a dingy diner on Freedom Boulevard and not my favorite restaurant at the time, Apple Butter Farms. When we showed up to the diner, the place was crowded with wild vagabonds sitting in puffs of thick cigarette smoke and a few hairy men slouched at the bar. It was loud and stuffy, flies were zipping about landing on plates of fried eggs. We arrived in our church clothes--me fresh from the baptismal font, my short hair still dripping a bit, my brother's too, our eight siblings (including Lucy the baby), a grandma and a few cousins. Standing in the lobby while a frazzled hostess looked for an endless table to place our group, my dad turned us all around and said to my mother,
"We're going to Apple Butter Farms."
And the look on my mother's face sparked a second's worth of guilt inside me, how would we pay for everyone? Was I putting pressure on my parents to make the day perfect? But, I was  elated to think I was worth the splurge--the financial forgetting for my most important day.
In a private space with white linen tables, the tones of classical music in our ears and a view of Provo river out the wide, east-facing window, we devoured stacked pancakes, warm syrup and homemade biscuits.
I remember thinking, this is my new life now. My dad could see it in me, the celestial state of my soul, the purity in my veins, the earnest ability to do what is right. The choice from here on out was simple: either I would be the dingy diner on Freedom Boulevard or Apple Butter Farms.



(happy easter!)