The pre-dawn darkness still clung to my window, a stubborn shadow refusing to let go, but I lay in my bed already wide awake. A bubble of excitement fizzed through my veins, popping with every heartbeat. Today wasn’t just any day; it was the day. My eighth birthday, sure, but also the day I’d step into the clear waters of baptism and rise anew—a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. That thought had me bouncing out of bed, a grin plastered across my face that felt like it could split my cheeks.
I slipped into my button-up—the blue one that made my eyes pop—and wriggled into jeans that smelled faintly of detergent and adventure. I knew that when everyone else woke up we’d enjoy my mom’s delicious biscuits and gravy.
“Haaappy Birthday to you,” Mom sang out, her voice carrying the warmth of a freshly baked pie as I galloped through the house. Dad and Kadi joined in, their harmonies “perfectly” in tune.
“Thanks, guys!” I said, trying to act cool even though I could barely keep still. They all beamed at me, their smiles as bright as the candles on an unbaked cake.
“Sit down, mister,” Mom chuckled, her hands skillfully maneuvering the steaming pan as she ladled biscuits and gravy onto the red plate—the one that only saw the light of day when something special was cooking up. “You’re going to need a full belly for today!”
As I dug in, the gravy rich and peppery, perfect against the soft give of the biscuits, I caught Dad’s eye. He winked at me, and I felt a surge of pride. Today was more than birthday candles and wrapping paper; it was about taking a step he’d taken years before.
“Gifts after the Baptism, right?” I asked between mouthfuls, my mind already racing ahead to the wrapped mysteries waiting for me.
“Yep.” Mom’s voice held a promise, the same kind she used when she tucked secrets into bedtime stories. “With the whole family cheering you on.”
“Absolutely,” Dad said, ruffling my blond hair until it stood on end. “The beginning of a great big adventure.”
I couldn’t help but laugh, feeling like I had a helium balloon for a heart. It was going to be a good day—a holy day—and I was ready to dive in.
After breakfast, the moment had come to shed my everyday armor of denim and cotton for something far more ceremonial. I stood before the mirror, the white shirt crisp as a new page in one of Mom’s novels—a blank slate upon which today’s rites would inscribe a fresh chapter. With meticulous hands, I threaded the black leather belt through the loops of my slacks, a symbol of both celebration and commitment, cinching it just right.
“Look at you, Cree,” Mom said from the doorway, her eyes glowing with pride. “All grown up.”
“Almost,” I corrected, snapping on the clip-on tie with a flourish that belied the fluttering in my belly. “Still can’t do a real tie.”
Dad chuckled from behind Mom, his voice a warm blanket. “In due time, son. Today, you’re perfect.”
Kadi snuck up next to them and teased, “Hey, look at Mr. Fancy Pants over here.”
“Quiet, bookworm,” I retorted, but my reflection betrayed a grin as wide as Copper Canyon.
Clad in my Sunday best, I felt like an actor stepping onto a grand stage, the freshly ironed white shirt transforming me into how I imagined a missionary might look. I tamed my unruly hair into obedience by comb and willpower alike. The wave I sculpted atop my head mirrored the calm before a baptismal storm, the quiet anticipation of transformation.
“Okay, team,” Dad announced, ushering us out the door. “Let’s get the birthday boy to church.”
The drive only took a couple of minutes, but each turn of the wheels seemed to tick away the seconds to my immersion, both literal and spiritual. We arrived at the chapel, where Aunt Rea sat at the piano, fingers dancing across keys like butterflies skimming the surface of a pond. Her music wrapped the building in an auditory embrace, welcoming all who entered.
Aunt Rea caught sight of us and gave a small nod, her prelude never faltering, as though she commanded the very air to pause in reverence of this day. Guests filled the room with a buzz akin to bees around spring flowers, their murmurs blending with the notes that floated from the piano.
“Look at the water,” Kadi murmured, pointing to the Baptismal font brimming with promise.
“It smells like a swimming pool, doesn’t it?” I replied, my voice barely above a whisper, my stomach performing somersaults at the thought of what was to come.
Soon enough, Aunt Vonnie relieved Aunt Rea at the piano, her transition seamless, the melody enduring without interruption. Kimberly, with the poise of a seasoned conductor despite her young years, stepped forward to direct our singing.
“Time to make a splash,” Dad joked, squeezing my shoulder reassuringly.
“Best splash ever,” I quipped back, trying to match his confidence while my heart skipped beats like pebbles across the surface of a calm lake.
As Aunt Vonnie led the congregation in song, her keystrokes became the soundtrack of my thoughts, setting the rhythm for the steps I was about to take. Each chord, each verse, a serenade to the soul about to embark on its newest voyage. And there I stood, on the precipice of eight-year-old eternity, the playful mischief of my past waltzing hand in hand with the solemnity of the ordinance that lay ahead.
The morning sun cast its first golden rays through the dusty glass, painting kaleidoscopic patterns on the faces of my family as they gathered in the primary room. The air seemed thick with the scent of chlorine and a fluttering anticipation that seemed to dance on every breath. As Aunt Vonnie’s fingers coaxed the opening notes from the piano, a hush fell over the assembly.
“I like my birth-days ev-’ry one,” sang the voices around me, the melody of “I Like My Birthdays” wrapping itself around each word like a ribbon. “To be bap-tized as Je-sus was…” The song was a perfect prelude, a playful nod to both the day and the deeper celebration at hand. ”I’ll have the bless-ing I need most,” as the song concluded, I had no idea how true the last phrase would prove over the years.
“Dear Heavenly Father,” Uncle Howard began after the last note faded, his deep voice steady and sure. I closed my eyes, listening intently as he spoke, his words weaving through the silence like threads of silk. “We ask for Thy spirit to be with us…”
As we said amen, Kadi, clutching her scriptures with reverence, stepped forward. Her rich brown hair shimmered under the chapel’s lights as she recited the scripture with clarity, “Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.”
“Nice,” I whispered to Kadi as we lined up with our cousins. Dallin gave an approving nod, his excitement barely noticeable. Raelynn, Crystal, and Kelsey stood poised, ready to lend their voices to “When I am Baptized,” a harmony of conviction and innocence that seemed to resonate within the very walls of the chapel, especially when sung by children.
As the final echoes of our song clung to the air, Dad nudged me gently. “Time to get ready, Bud.” With our entourage of cousins cheering silently, Dad and I retreated to the privacy of the changing room.
“Think these pants come in my size?” I joked, slipping out of my Sunday best and into the pure white trousers that felt too big yet somehow just right. Dad chuckled, his white shirt and slacks transforming him into my partner in this holy rite.
“Ready, son?” Dad replied, winking at me through the mirror as he adjusted his tie. The music swelled, its notes carrying the weight of tradition and the lightness of a new beginning. It was a soundtrack to the step I was about to take, a leap of faith wrapped in the comfort of those I loved. For a moment I thought I caught Dad’s blue eyes reflecting pride and a hint of the same nervous excitement that jittered in my stomach.
“Ready,” I affirmed, my voice a mix of eagerness and nerves. This was it, the moment where childhood musings dipped their toes into the waters of eternity. I took a deep breath, the white fabric of my white clothes rustling softly, and opened the door to step into my destiny.
The water greeted me like a whispered secret, cool but not cold, enveloping me as I stepped in behind Dad. It was like wading into the river that ran through Colonia Juarez, only no tadpoles were swimming around my ankles, just the smooth surface of the baptismal font reflecting the overhead lights.
“Deep breath, Cree,” Dad murmured, his voice steady and calm. His right hand lifted ceremoniously to the square, a signal that seemed to quiet the world. The other found my hand, gripping it with a reassuring strength.
“By the authority of the Melchizedek Priesthood,” he began, and it was as if his words wove a cocoon around us, shielding us from everything outside this sacred moment. “I baptize you…” I felt a tingling start in my belly, an ember of warmth that spread upwards and outwards, reaching every corner of my being. “Amen.”
And down I went, submerged in the gentle embrace of the water, the glow inside me flaring up like a birthday candle lit by unseen hands. I popped back to the surface, emitting a little gasp, feeling lighter than I ever had—clean, new, different.
Uncle Howard and Brother Turley’s nods were just blurs in my peripheral vision, their silent confirmation of a job well done barely registering as I blinked the water from my lashes.
“Good job, son,” Dad said, his smile beaming brighter than any candle on any cake.
“Thanks, Dad,” I managed, still awestruck, watching droplets fall from my arms back into the font like tiny bits of silver.
We made quick work of drying off, the towel soft against my skin, but the internal shimmer still clung to me. Slipping back into my Sunday Best felt like donning armor, a crisp white shield over a heart blazing with newfound purpose.
“Looking sharp, Cree,” Dad said, straightening my clip-on tie with a chuckle.
“Like a mini-missionary,” I quipped, trying to match his ease, though my chest was a hive of humming bees, each one buzzing with joy.
Back in the Primary Room, a lone folding chair sat before the congregation, a throne awaiting its prince. I took my seat, the fabric of my slacks whispering against the fabric of the seat. Dad stood behind me, towering yet tender, his hands resting gently upon my head.
“Brothers and sisters,” he announced, his voice echoing slightly off the walls, “I now have the privilege to confirm Cree…”
The words flowed over me, a benediction, and suddenly that warm glow ignited into a blaze. It was more than heat; it was light, clarity, certainty. The Holy Ghost, a promised companion, settled around my shoulders like a cloak woven from threads of divine assurance.
“Receive the Holy Ghost,” Dad pronounced, and the fire within seared away all traces of doubt, leaving only a fierce, pure conviction in its wake.
“Am I glowing?” I wanted to ask, half-expecting my skin to shine with the force of what I felt inside. But I stayed silent, savoring this inner luminescence, knowing it was mine to keep, to carry with me through the rest of my life.
The congregation’s eyes were on me, a sea of expectant gazes that felt like the sun’s rays concentrated into a spotlight. I stood, my palms slightly damp against the fabric of my crisp white shirt. “I know,” I began, my voice small but growing firmer with each word, “that Jesus lives.” Hearts in the room seemed to quiet, listening not just to me, but to the whisper of something divine. “He died for our sins,” I continued, a sense of wonder threading through my words, “and was resurrected so that we all could live again.” The conviction in my chest bloomed, spreading its roots deep within my soul. “Even at eight,” I said, a grin tugging at my lips as if sharing a secret with the universe, “I can feel it’s true.” Around me, nods and soft amens rippled through the air, affirming my fledgling testimony.
Aunt Vonnie took her place at the piano, her fingers dancing across the keys with practiced ease, and Kimberly, next to her, lifted her chin in preparation. Their voices blended in harmony, filling the room with the melody of “The Holy Ghost.” The notes swirled around us, an invisible choir joining in their song of faith.
As the last chords faded, Mom stepped forward, her presence steady as the mountains outside our Colonia Juarez home. “Our Father in Heaven,” she began, her voice a lullaby of gratitude, “we thank thee for this special day…” The prayer wound around us, a sacred shawl tucking us into this moment of quiet reflection.
“Amen,” we echoed collectively, sealing the prayer, and the day.
Then the time came for farewells. I shook hands, hugged, and offered shy smiles to the eighteen friends and family members who had witnessed my passage into this new covenant. “Thank you for coming,” I said to Uncle Howard, his large hand swallowing mine in a warm grip.
“Wouldn’t have missed it, champ,” he replied, his mustache twitching in a smile.
“Happy birthday, Cree!” Raelynn chimed, her ponytail swishing as she gave me a quick squeeze.
“Thanks, Rae,” I chuckled, feeling a bit like a pinball bouncing from one well-wisher to the next.
“Keep that light burning bright,” Brother Turley advised, tapping my shoulder with a wink. I nodded earnestly, determined to do just that.
One by one, they filed out, leaving behind a trail of blessings and birthday wishes. My heart was full, my spirit buoyant; even the air seemed to shimmer with the residual warmth of the day’s events. I knew the memories made today, wrapped in love and faith, would be treasures I’d carry forever, nestled safely in the pocket of my soul.
The last echoes of Aunt Vonnie’s “The Holy Ghost” hummed in my ears as we walked the short distance to Grandma Brown’s. My story was just beginning, but today had added a special chapter—one filled with faith and family. As the sun dipped lower in the sky, casting long shadows over our joyous gathering, I couldn’t help but feel that this was exactly where I was meant to be.