One thing Skylar unintentionally signed up for when he first moved to Salt Lake City eight years ago was periodic attendance at Mormon services. He knew I wasn't religious so I imagine it was a surprise to him the first time I told him we had to go to a baptism.
"Will I be getting wet at all?" he asked me while fumbling through various closet outfits, trying to determine the appropriate attire for the occasion.
"Only if you undergo a very surprising slapdash conversion or something goes terribly wrong," I explained.
"I mean, like does the audience get splashed or anything," he clarified, no doubt picturing Shamu the Whale mid breach.
"You are going to be very underwhelmed by this experience," I warned him.
Forty-five minutes later we were sitting on the back row in a small room where our friend's eight-year-old would be dunked, waiting for the services to begin when I noticed Skylar writing furiously on a card he had brought for the child of the hour. "You were having such a good hair day," the card said. "Such a shame you had to get it wet."
When the child was submerged he gasped. When she re-emerged he did one clap before noticing no one else was applauding. "Tough crowd," he whispered to me about the disappointing physical manifestation of enthusiasm.
It has confused me over the years that even though he has now attended a critical mass of these events he seems surprised by them every time.
They are entertaining productions, as far as he is concerned. Every speaker is part of the show—characters in a play revealing bits of the plot. Like one woman a few years ago who had been invited to speak at a baptism where she held up a picture of a 19th century church leader, a prop for a story she was telling about faith. "This was a prophet. He died long ago," she said, prompting my husband to sincerely and sympathetically gasp and say "oh no!" as if this man was a personal friend of his and he was just now hearing the news of his mortality.
Not long ago we sat in a quiet crowd of congregants staring at an empty baptismal font for ten minutes while my niece, struck with a bout of stage fright, hid out in the hallway refusing to get in despite the coaching and encouragement from her parents.
"This is riveting," Skylar whispered to me.
When she finally made her way down the steps and into the water he sighed. "It's not that I wanted your sister to have to deal with the stress or anything," he explained to me after. "It's just that I was really interested to find out whether there would still be an open house afterward if she didn't go through with it."
Last Sunday we arrived at a church building on the other end of town to attend my nephew's baptism. A man stood at the pulpit, welcoming the attendees. When he announced that my mother was the designated chorister for the event, Skylar's face lit up and he leaned side-to-side trying to spot her on the stage. "I didn't know Cathie was in this!" he hissed at me, like we were at a prestige film debut and he just noticed Meryl in a brief cameo. "I can't believe they could afford her," he added.
When my mom finished leading the congregation through the opening song he whispered, "remind me. Do we clap?"
"No," I told him.
He shook his head. "Tough crowd."
At the end of the event we hugged the nephew goodbye. "Was that so fun?" Skylar said to him, before adding his common refrain at these events. "I bet it was. I love swimming."
He then hugged my mother. "You were an absolute star," he told her. "Best part of the show." She laughed.
"Well that was fun!" he told me after we climbed into the car to drive home.
I squeezed his hand.
His observations of it all are often baffling, and I can't tell if his responses are comically irreverent or sincerely respectful.
Whatever the answer is, there's no denying I married a good sport.
~It Just Gets Stranger