Post 50 – A Confirmation That Life is Not Fair

The church in the village of Leone.

The church in the village of Leone.

October 1965
“We go to church in the village of Leone, which is about 8 miles in the other direction from Tafuna. The road is paved and winds through mountains, with palm trees, banana trees and all sorts of interesting green stuff. They have the brightest blue hydrangeas here, assorted colored leaves, hibiscus all over and somebody must have smuggled in some marigolds. The church itself is white cement block, very airy and with horrible wooden kneelers. The women don’t wear hats, or shoes, and the men and women sit on separate sides. We were ushered in one Sunday, Larry trailed by all the females and directed to the men’s side.  The man sitting next to me got up and moved . . . I guess he wasn’t going to sit next to some damn women during church. I am hoping Chris can be confirmed here instead of waiting until we get home.”

Jean

Chrissie danced impatiently around the large package as her mother went to find a pair of scissors. Excessive amounts of tape were a Broquet family tradition, and the lengths that had been adhered to a box that had traveled overseas were roughly the equivalent of the distance from Tafuna to Leone. Sometimes special tools were needed to saw through it, but at least it made it off the boat in one piece.

Her mother pulled out wads of packing newspapers and carefully set them aside to read later. They were only a few months old and on the island, that counted as current events. She had almost reached the bottom when she suddenly handed her daughter a small package. Chrissie carefully tore through the newspaper and 14 yards of Scotch tape and pulled out the most beautiful dress she had ever seen. It was a sleeveless white pique shift with delicate embroidery across the top, and her hands looked especially filthy in contrast as she turned to her mother with tears in her eyes.

“It’s from Grandma M. for your confirmation – I wasn’t sure it was going to make it on time,” said her mother.

The children’s religious education had become decidedly casual after the rigid structure of parochial school in Detroit. Jean did her best to get everyone dressed and out the door to attend Mass, but the humidity, excessive coconut oil hair pomade aroma and lack of cooperation from Larry frequently tripped her up. Also the sermon was delivered in Samoan, so whatever teaching moments might have been in there flew right over her head.

Chrissie knew the upcoming confirmation was a big deal, but she hadn’t been aware that it was a Get a New Dress That None of Your Sisters Have Already Worn kind of thing. This was huge! She suddenly felt very close to God.

The special confirmation ceremony took place in a church that they had never attended before, high up on the mountain. The sound of church bells rang out, although upon closer review, the bells were actually old oxygen tanks with the bottoms cut off. Samoan men beat on them with sticks, and the notes from this Polynesian carillon had a shimmering echo as they hung in the damp air. There were 160 Samoan children filling the church as Chrissie took her place in line with Kathy by her side as her sponsor, both of them feeling pale. All of the instructions from the priest were in Samoan, although he did do a quick English translation for the benefit of the little white girls.

Chrissie tried not to sweat in her new dress, but the combination of excitement, intimidation and no tropical breeze made that difficult. She wore new flip-flops and a pink bow in her hair, and knew that this was her moment. Standing out in a family of four girls was never easy, but today she had claimed her individuality with her blazing white frock that shouted “I Am Unique! I Am Me! I Am My Own Person!” Someone tapped her on the shoulder to tell her to move forward, and Chrissie turned around to smile and say thanks. She was met with a grin from the friendly brown face of the girl behind her, who was wearing the exact same dress.

Chrissie was pretty sure that this was some kind of penance she was going to have to pay for having been so vain about the damn dress, as God once again demonstrated he had a sense of humor. And the situation was made worse by the fact that the Samoan girl looked way better than she did, with her bronze skin a stunning contrast to the white waffled fabric. The ceremony seemed to go on for hours before the priest once again switched over to English and presented her with a certificate and announced that she had chosen the name Elizabeth for her confirmation name. She felt a tiny bit better when saw how that elicited an extreme reaction from her youngest sister out in the audience. Elizabeth was Karen’s middle name and she was very possessive of it, as she hoped to someday tag a potential pet chicken with that moniker.

By now the church was very hot, and all she wanted to do was go home and change. She looked around the packed congregation and realized that besides herself and Kathy, there were only two other palagis. One was a bewildered looking boy whose family had just arrived on the island last week, and the other was an adult man. He had converted to Catholicism in order to marry a Samoan girl, and had been baptized, made his First Communion and been confirmed all in the space of six months. To Chrissie, that seemed like a lot of religion to have to go through in a short amount of time, but she cut him some slack. At least he wasn’t wearing the same dress as she was.

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2 Comments to “Post 50 – A Confirmation That Life is Not Fair”

  1. My confirmation name is Teresa. Wonder where I got that from?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Ahhh, just the thought of my pet chicken Elizabeth brings tears to my eyes. She was a good and faithful fowl.

    Like

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