"The Christening"
by Susana Rosende
copyright 1986

The woman draws her coat in tightly as if to protect herself from the elements. She is in foreign territory. She is in Church.

The priest smiles at the small group assembled in the first three pews and inquires if anyone has recently attended a Baptism. Admidst the murmurs of polite responses there is a deafening and unexpected cry: "NEVER!"

An awkward silence ensues as all eyes turn to rest upon her. Defiantly, she raises her chin. As the ceremony proceeds, she lowers her eyes and sinks deeper into her seat. She shuts her eyes tightly as the holy water is poured on the infant's forehead and the ceremonial candle is lit. When it is all over, she does not remain for the taking of pictures.

At the reception, the woman approaches the parents of her grandchild. She thrusts a package into her daughter-in-law's hands and commands her to open it. The young woman is stunned as she reveals the gift, then quickly regains her composure. The gift is an electric Menorah with bright orange bulbs.

The mother-in-law beams. "It is Hannukah, you know." To her gratification, the Menorah is placed in the livingroom, beside the Christmas tree. In a better mood, she wanders over to the buffet table, where her small victory is immediately squelched. In the center of the table is a large rectangular cake with the words, "God Bless Brian Christopher" written in blue icing. Directly above the writing is a small plastic angel and immediately to the right is a painfully large cross of blue frosting.

Almost instantly, the woman notices a knife lying beside the cake, the light from the Menorah casting an orange glow on its blade. Quickly, and careful not to disturb the writing, she cuts out the entire cross, which she wraps in foil and amiably gives away to the maintenance man who is on his way out of the apartment.

Shutting the door behind him, she is once again able to brave the party.

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