This weekend was my fourth child’s first Communion. It was beautiful to see her receive this sacrament. And if you would like to hear only pleasant things about first Communion day, stop reading now.
If you would like to hear what actually happened, I shall tell you below.
My daghter needed to be there early, we decided to go to the church in two groups: My husband would take her and some of the big kids, and I would follow behind with the little ones. “I’ll be right behind you!” I said in my innocent unawareness of how the next half hour of my life was about to go.
After the first group left I went to get dressed. Sadly, this was not a simple prospect. Over the past few months, the process of working on my new book left me so maxed out that every single one of my brain cells was devoted to writing or keeping my household running. The part of my hypothalamus responsible for thoughts like YOU PROBABLY SHOULDN’T EAT PORTIONS OF FOOD THAT ARE THE SIZE OF YOUR ENTIRE HEAD had been sent into hibernation.
And so none of my clothes fit. I tried on one outfit after another, all of them looking like Barbie clothes compared to my newly expanded frame. Luckily, I had a backup: My nacho skirt.
A friend of mine once devoured a plate of nachos that was meant to be shared among 4 – 6 people according to the menu. The resulting discomfort led her to change into her most stretchy, shapeless pants once she returned home, which were henceforth dubbed her “nacho pants.”
In my closet, I had a nacho skirt.
It was one of those online orders that was sized completely inappropriately. When it arrived last year, I laughed as the loose fabric billowed around me — I could barely even keep it on my waist. The company’s byzantine returns process made me lose my will to live every time I thought about trying to get a refund, so I decided to keep it around, perhaps for the kids to fashion into a tent.
When I spotted the folds and folds of fabric drooping from the hanger on first Communion morning, I realized I had my nacho skirt.
I went to try it on, still with plenty of time before we needed to leave. First I put on my titanium Spanx, which I only use because they don’t make whalebone corsets anymore (why?!). When I grabbed the skirt, my main hope was that it wouldn’t be too loose anymore.
When I actually pulled it on, it was tight.
It is impossible to describe the violent mix of thoughts and emotions that swirled through my mind when I realized that my nacho skirt was now too small.
After taking a moment for bitter, bitter reflection on my decision to spend the past few months of my life living as if I were a medalist on the professional eating contest circuit, I was able to get it zipped — barely. Sure, I’d walk into the church looking like Lil’ Kim was my personal shopper, but at least I had something to wear.
I sat down to put on my shoes, and the moment I landed on the chair I heard the horrible sound of fabric tearing apart.
Further inspection revealed that my gelatinous you-know-what had ripped apart the zipper in my nacho skirt. And I had five minutes before I needed to leave for first Communion.
The top of the zipper was still in place, yet I couldn’t unzip it because of the tearing. I was stuck. I tried pulling it over my head, and ended up flailing and writhing around the bathroom like a bug stuck in a Venus Flytrap. Finally I resorted to a Jaws of Life maneuver and grabbed a pair of industrial scissors to cut my way out of the fabric.
After throwing the horrible skirt into the trash can with extra force to teach it a lesson, I returned to the wasteland of my closet. If I found it depressing that I was actually considering wearing a pair of my husband’s suit pants, my life reached its nadir when I realized they still wouldn’t fit because they’d be too short.
I eventually stuffed myself into a pair of slacks, which I had to leave unbuttoned at the top, and went to leave. I saw that my four-year-old had changed himself into a Ninja Turtle outfit. For reasons that I can only ascribe to latent self hatred, I decided to pick this battle. Both of us emerged from his bedroom seven minutes later, bedraggled, breathless, and sweaty, but by Jove he had a collared shirt on.
We arrived at the church late, of course. Our parish has a policy that they don’t seat latecomers during the Bible readings so that fools like me don’t distract people from the Scriptures, so I got to stand out in the hallway until the homily. This gave me ample time to reflect on the fact that I was late to my own daughter’s first Communion, and to reflect on my utter failure as a Catholic, a mother, and a human being.
When we were finally able to enter, I got to do the walk of shame all the way up to the front pew, which was where the first Communion families were seated. Our church is enormous, with endless rows of pews and about a thousand people attending each weekend Mass, and I felt like I was in one of those dreams where you’re running down a never-ending hallway as I waddled toward the front of the sanctuary in my unbuttoned pants with everyone’s eyes on me.
When I reached the pew I saw that there was limited room, since it’s hard to hold seats at a Mass like this. We pushed and jostled and eventually got everyone crammed into the pew like a clown car. And, in the end, I was able to work my way across the group to sit next to my daughter, who looked happy and beautiful as she waited for her big moment.
She received her first Communion with me standing right behind her. When we returned to the pew, me still decompressing from this epic day, I was struck by the profundity of the gift of the Eucharist. I had been running so far in the red zone that I was barely even capable of engaging in other parts of the service — and yet, even in my ridiculous state I could understand the primal simplicity of eating the Body of Christ.
I pulled my daughter close as she said a prayer, and was filled with gratitude on her behalf. When she has her own bursting-out-of-the-nacho-skirt kind of day that leaves her unable to think or analyze or say any kind of profound prayers, she’ll always be able to encounter God in the Eucharist.