BEING IN A Mexican family occasionally entails social obligations, mostly regarding the Catholic Church or, as my mama would have said, the Catlick Church.
I’ve been asked numerous times over the years to be a godfather to babies. I’ve always dodged that duty, mostly due to not being Catholic, an easy out.
No matter. Occasionally, I have to make an appearance on the Vatican Trail, and recently I did that when a nephew passed some sort of Catholic threshold.
They have names like First Communion, Confirmation, Confession, Holy Blessing from On High, Walking on Knees. I confess they’re a jumble in my noggin’. They all entail indirectly coughing up some pesos for the Pope through his priestly minions who dress like medieval womenfolk.
Well, anyway, there I was, sitting in one of those Catholic pews with the little kneeling rail at my feet, which creates problems for my long legs, plus I do not kneel.
As the two priests droned on and on, the recorded music rose and fell, the incense burned — I liked that part — the people prayed, we stood, we sat, more droning, I took the photo above of the girl and her parents, sitting dead ahead.
Sitting to my left was my lovely child bride, to her left was her sister, to her left was the poor guy who’d been suckered into Godfatherhood, and then finally, abutting the aisle, was our kid decked out in farcical white, head to heel.
The little angel that he isn’t.
After an hour and 10 minutes, I couldn’t take it anymore, so I stood and left. I was hungry. I bought a couple of street cookies, sat on a steel bench outside the church door and waited.
Not long after, the priests ran out of ideas and ended the hoopla. My people came out. The kid looked the same.
MY CHILD BRIDE was hunting her roots, and I went along for the ride.
The objective was to get proof of her having been baptized in the Roman Catholic Church because we need that for the First Communion of our nephew whom I have referred to hereabouts as the Little Vaquero even though now he is 11 years old.
The boy is growing quickly.
The Vaquero wants me to be his godfather, but since I have never joined any church, Catholic or otherwise, nor have I been baptized, I’m not eligible. I have never been touched by any organized religion or its odd practices, so I could not be the godfather.
Vatican credentials are essential, they say.
But there are sneaky ways to circumvent the rules. What will happen, as I understand it, is that I will be the godfather but my child bride will stand in for me at the ceremony because she has the proper credentials from On High.
We just have to locate those credentials, the proof of her baptism over half a century ago, and we don’t know exactly in what church that took place. It’s the specific church that has the proof. Since she spent her early childhood in Taretan, we figured the church there would have the papers, but we were mistaken.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
On Tuesday morning, we headed down the autopista to Taretan. On arriving, we went to the church office where we discovered the baptism credentials of three siblings, but not hers.
We mulled. My child bride was not born in Taretan like the other three siblings. She was born a few miles away in the larger city called Uruapan, but they lived there just briefly.
But before we leave Taretan and head to Uruapan, let me tell you what I did. The church, as in most Mexican towns, faces the plaza. And near the church is an ice cream parlor named Paletería Violeta. I always sit on a sidewalk table at Violeta’s with an agua de fresa, which is a sort of strawberry-ade. I sit and watch the passing people on the plaza.
We’re in Taretan a couple times each year. It’s a Mexican Mayberry.
Sitting there, I noticed a man with his portable business in the plaza across the street. It was a big three-wheeled bicycle, and his business sat in front of the handlebars on a large platform. He sold, cut, squeezed and served sugar cane.
He was younger than I but not by much. He wore a baggy cotton shirt, baggy cotton trousers, a large straw hat, a bushy Mexican mustache and ancient, dusty sandals, huaraches.
As I was finishing my agua de fresa, he walked over and asked if I could change a 100-peso note. A customer bought a five-peso cane treat and paid with a 100-peso bill. I could not help him, and he went off hunting change.
Meanwhile, my child bride was in the church office not far away. When she spoke her name to the secretary, a man sitting nearby said that he had known her father and mother. Keep in mind the whole family had moved away from Taretan almost 50 years ago.
Sheriff Andy likely remembered Mayberry residents from long ago. Deputy Fife too. Small towns can stay the same, more so in Mexico now, I think, than in the United States where people are more mobile, and society is crumbling into discord.
Since the baptism paper we sought was not in Taretan, we figured it was in the nearby bigger city of Uruapan where she was born. The family lived there briefly, in this house below, and her father, a doctor, saw patients in the front room.
That’s the house, yellow and white, where my young bride was born at home, not in a hospital, and her daddy delivered her. With mama’s help.
Perhaps the baptism paper was available in the church nearest to where she was born. It sounded logical. Mexicans don’t wander far. We drove to #20 Pueblita Street and asked a passer-by where the nearest church was. It was on the main plaza.
We arrived at lunch time, and the office was closed. Looking at a two-hour wait, we decided to return home, which we did. We’ll have to return another day, but since the Little Vaquero is not scheduled for his First Communion till next month, we have time.
If the baptism paper isn’t at that church, we don’t know what we’ll do to satisfy the Vatican. But the agua de fresa alone made the trip worthwhile for me.
And the sugar cane vendor with the bushy mustache.