Olive and I took the bus to Palm Sunday service, she strapped to me by a long piece of fabric called a Moby Wrap. That guy with the long gray hair and dark glasses who plays reggaeton on a boombox that he perches on his lap sat across from us. You know that guy? If you live in a city you know that guy. If you ride the 14 he’s probably your friend Ramon.
We got there just in time for the processional, in which we walked around the block waving our palms and singing. It reminded me of last year’s processional, which was many blocks long, and consisted of us singing “This Is The Day” over and over again. This year’s, one block and with a lovely hymn, was much preferable. And Olive was there, waving her little palm.
When it came time for the long Passion story to be read, the children were dismissed for Children’s Sermon. Since my husband had to work today and wasn’t with me, I decided to take the baby down with them rather than sit through a long reading with an active infant. We sat in a circle and said our names. When I introduced Olive, many of the kids chuckled at her presence in their midst. One particularly thoughtful and adorable red-headed boy grinned and said, “Well, Olive looks just like a little baby.” “Yup, she’s a little baby”, I replied. Another girl piped up, “She’s kinda cute.” Understatement of the century. This was Olive’s entry into the Childrens’ Program at Holy Innocents.
The Children’s Sermon consisted of gathering vegetables to put in baskets that would be brought up to the altar for the offering, and doing a little work in the garden. There were no felt figures on a board, no memorization of Bible verses, no animal crackers and apple juice. Olive played with the other children, grabbing their palms or taking the springs of lemon balm they offered her. I took her over to the huge rosemary bush and she clutched it with both hands, opening and shutting her fat little fingers over the branches.
Such was the beginning of Holy Week, a wildly important one for our family, as Olive will be baptized at the Saturday Easter Vigil. I have not begun to reflect on the enormity of this event. I’m so excited for her to be embraced formally by this community that has cheered her on from her time in utero, and for the beginning of her spiritual life to be ritualized. Right now she is bound to me so fully, and yet her relationship with the spiritual world is her own. This ceremony will be acknowledging that — that Olive has her own spiritual life, and, at seven months, we’ll be taking a moment to invite the mystery of God within her.