The Adjusted Normal, 42 & 43. Communion Time.

Yesterday evening I was feeling like a round meatball, with that tired feeling that comes when you've been eating all afternoon. More than anything, what you want to do is stretch out on a flat surface and vegetate until that fullness slowly disappears.

We went to a First Communion yesterday. My husband's nephew received the host yesterday, and it was followed up by a celebration at a restaurant nearby. Thanks to the devil virus, the total number people in the dining room was twenty, including the children. While it still seems a lot of people to me, I think most of us had not have been in a situation in which they might have been infected. 

The day started out at midday. We went down to the church and, while we waited outside under the trees, slowly, people started showing up. It turned out there were two First Communions at the same Mass, and family and guests showed up for both, as well as the usual Sunday Mass participants. In the end, the church was a little crowded. Everyone was wearing a mask, even the children receiving their First Communion, and everyone who went to receive had the host put in their hand. The priest, however, could be heard quite clearly. He wasn't wearing a mask. Talking about the blind leading...

Communions nowadays are almost like weddings. After the communion, pictures had to be taken at the altar. While the girl and her family went first, we wandered around outside in the fresh air. Away from other people, I pulled down my mask. I've heard a Portuguese clothing company, Mo, has developed a mask that will destroy the virus, and that is more breatheable and doesn't retain heat as much. I've ordered one for each of us, even though they're ten euros, each. The priest had spoken Mass slowly, drawing out the words and the prayers, and the church was not very cool with all the people in it. I had to pull the bottom of the mask away from my face from time to time. 

After the pictures, we drove to the restaurant, a restored pazo, or manor house, in a nearby township. There, some more pictures were taken while everyone stood around under the shade of some venerable oaks, drinking and eating entrées brought out from the kitchen to round tables covered in red tablecloths. We spent a good half hour out there. The day was hot, but not quite as hot as previous days, and a ghost of a breeze flowed by, under the twisting, stretching branches that touched each other above us, and covered us in a green twilight. 

Close to four o'clock, like at weddings, we strolled in to the dining room. The one we occupied had various tables pushed together under table cloths to look as big as a refectory table at a monastery. The room had been one of the manor house's kitchens. At the end, was what looked like a stone altar. It was the lareira, the area where the fire was lit. The entire roof above that portion of the room vanished upwards, where it narrowed and became the chimney. There was also a bread oven in one wall, and what seemed like roasting pits in another corner. Behind the table was a large trough where water used to be poured to wash kitchenware. 

Another indication that this was much like a wedding was the seafood. Large prawns were repeatedly replenished as the platters were emptied. The only difference was that there were only two seafood dishes, the prawns and two sea scallops, placed in front of each diner. The scallops were cooked in the traditional manner here; on the half-shell, with a thick, onion and bread crumb based sauce broiled in the oven. Then, we had a choice of sea bass or beef medallions. At a wedding we would have been served both. At the end, desert of cake and vanilla ice cream in chocolate cups. with chocolate sauce. And coffee for whoever wanted to finish digesting everything.

In the meantime, the children had their own menu, with a person helping them, so the parents could eat their own food. They weren't at the table very long. After they ate their food, they were whisked outside to a swimming pool, where they took turns splashing, and then down to an air mattress that had been set up. They were supervised by people who specialized in baby sitting, I think. The name of the job is actually more technical, but I've forgotten it, and, in essence, that's what they do - baby sit. 

After eating, the real conversations began, and when the topics touched politics, it got hotter than it was outside. I would have preferred to stay away from politics, especially since there were still some knives on the table. I will say that every family has people from different political and social stripes. Most of the cousins there (yes, we're cousins, and that's a different, very long story) were hard workers. A few had higher education, some worked in menial jobs. But all of them had strong convictions, sometimes counter to what would have been better for their situation. When one of the persons mentioned that the reason Amancio Ortega closed local cooperatives, where sewing had been done for his Zara empire, was that the people had left to work elsewhere, I flipped. They left because he closed them to sew cheaper overseas in Bangladesh, Turkey, and Morocco! But you can't reason with people over politics and topics associated with it. Every time my husband stood up in his chair to better accentuate his point, I pulled him down. It just wasn't worth it.

Family undercurrents were also noticeable. With some of the members, it was obvious that there were certain strains. A remark, a look, a movement of the head, or a too-loud laugh. If it hadn't been for the communion, a few of the people there would not have bothered to join the rest. Every family has undercurrents. At least ours are not murderous. Yet.

In the end, we went home earlier than we would have done from a wedding - around eight o'clock. But it was late enough. The evening was cooling down, but it still felt like hitting the beach would be a nice idea. Only, our overstuffed stomachs preferred going home and stretching out somewhere in the shade. We did so, displacing some of the cats who had already chosen the best spots. 

My husband remarked that it hadn't gone too badly, but that he still believed it would have been better to have had the food delivered, and have the meal in the patio of his nephew's family. We were relaxed, but behind my brother-in-law's house we would have been better able to just spread out in the shade, without so much attention to the serving of the different dishes, nor rigidly sitting in our places. When our daughter made her own First Communion, that's what we did. We ordered the food and put out tables behind our house, under the cool arbor. There was no constraint upon staying nicely dressed, and there was freedom to get up and move around. 

First Communions look more and more like weddings, now. It's not only the fancy restaurants, it's the expense. I've written about it before, and it's true. Yesterday's was small, more than anything because of the devil virus, but they tend to run to around a hundred invitees. In a normal year, it can cost around €3,600, and if there are a lot of guests, up to €6,000. There's the clothes, the restaurant, the little presents of candy handed out, along with a little favor, sometimes ceramic, sometimes plastic, with the name and date to remember the occasion by. There's the photographer, who sometimes is also hired to make videos of the day. It's almost as expensive as a wedding. Some parents start setting aside money when their child is born. 

At any rate, the day is done, and it wasn't too bad, after all.

Life continues.



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