My mother told me today that she secretly baptized my two nieces. We were having lunch and I was riffing on the fact that the kids are being raised Buddhist, and, just to mess with my mother, I suggested that the kids won’t be joining us in heaven because they haven’t been baptized.
“Oh, we don’t have to worry about that,” she said, taking a sip of her cocktail. “I baptized them.”
I put down my fork and stared at her in shock.
“You took them to church?” I asked in true surprise. My mother hasn’t been to church since my confirmation. And even then she wasn’t fully engaged. She spent most of the service arguing with my father over who in the congregation was having an affair.
“No, I did it myself,” she said. “I baptized them in the sunroom.” The sunroom was my mother’s sanctuary in my childhood home. We were rarely allowed in it when I was a kid, and I always imagined her using it as the base for her dark, covert operations. Never in my wildest fantasies did I imagine her doing God’s work in this room.
“You baptized them yourself? Is that even legal?” I asked. “I mean will God recognize such a crackpot scheme?”
“Well, He’d better,” she said. And, frankly, if God knows what’s good for Him, He’d best not mess with my mother when she’s feeling officious. She’ll kick His ass. “Those kids are going to heaven.”
My parents were outraged when they learned that my brother and sister-in-law had no intention of baptizing the kids. My sister-in-law is Thai and so the kids are Buddhist, mainly, I suspect, because they live near a Buddhist temple that produces a fantastic brunch every Sunday for congregants. Religion has nothing to do with it. But religion has nothing to do with my parents’ objections, either. They’re both merrily agnostic and think people who buy into organized religion are morons.
“OK, so how do you baptize someone without a preacher guy around?” I asked.
“Oh, it’s easy,” she said. “You just say ‘You’re baptized in the name of the Father, the Son….’ and, well, you know the rest.”
“Did you trail off like that when you were baptizing them? Because I don’t think it’s official if you can’t name all the various holy players.”
She dismissed me with the wave of her hand. “Oh, for Godsakes. It’s not like we’re Catholic. You don’t need all those formalities if you’re Protestant.”
“Does Dad know about this?” I asked.
“Of course he does. It’s one of the rare things we have agreed on in the past 45 years. Although we did have a fight when I told him what I sprinkled on them when I did the baptism.”
“Let me guess….does it include the word vodka in the name?”
“Vodka tonic. So there was water involved. Tonic is a type of water, right?”
“Why do you even care about this?” I asked. “You don’t believe in God. Why do you care that they’re not baptized?”
“Well, what if we’re wrong? What if there is a God? Better to hedge our bets.”
And, in a nutshell, I feel the same way about long-term, romantic relationships. They don’t make sense. The concept of two carbon-based creatures making some type of mystical connection that obliges them to walk hand-in-hand until death goes against everything I know about science and nature. And yet, what if I’m wrong? So, I keep trying–and blessing them with vodka-tonics–and hoping for the best. Faith is a powerful thing.