After proudly completing my First Communion and prancing around in my tiara and princess dress that I personally designed at a Wedding boutique in San Fernando, I did one of my first confessions. But, let’s talk a little about the dress before we get into confessions. So my dress was fabulous. I went window shopping with my mom one Sunday afternoon and after looking at many dresses at many stores I figured out what I wanted. I said “Mami, quiero que me hagan el vestido como un vestido de boda.” My mom said, “Que? Estàs loca?” I said, “I’m crazy for my perfect first communion dress.” After we got in the car to drive home and discuss my dress options, I argued that I was only going to have a First Communion once in my life and I was only going to be eight years old once in my life. I needed to have a tailor made dress. I envisioned big. A big fluffy dress that would take up the entire dance floor for my backyard boogie. I was going to be the center of attention. All eyes on me.
My mom said, “Te vaz a poner el vestido un ratito, y luego nunca mas te lo vas a poner.” I said “Yea, mom. But that day is special. Then my sister can wear it next.” “Please mom.” I started crying hysterically. “The dress I want is beautiful.” “It’s so pretty.” “I want to take pretty pictures at Sears.” “My dress is so important to me.” “You never listen to me.” “You never care about my feelings.” “Why are you so mean?” I continued crying. “Don’t you want me to look pretty at church?” “You just want me to be ugly.” “You don’t care about me.” I continued crying. “You’re just mad you didn’t wear a pretty dress for your first communion, so you want me to be ugly too.” “Eres envidiosa!” “Please mom!” “Stop being mean!” My mom’s agitation led her to pinch my leg. She couldn’t control herself. It was like respondent behavior. You just barf when you have to. You can’t control vomit. I cried even more. “Aaaahhhhh!!!!!” “Why are you hurting me?” “Cayate Denise! Eres una malagradecida!” “I want that dress!!!”
We got home and I expressed to my dad the importance of a fabulous first communion dress. My mom and my dad talked about whether or not they would buy it for me for about a week. I promised them I was going to get A’s on my report card. My parents finally decided they were going to let me design my first communion dress. The next weekend I went back to the store to get measured and I told the seamstress I wanted poofy sleeves, poofy skirt and glitter on my top. A few weeks later, I went back to pick up my dress. My tantrum was worth every second.
Finally, the day came for me to do my First Communion. I noticed I had one of the most elaborate dresses. It was exciting to receive communion and to do my first confession. My mother said, “You either confess your sins face-to-face or like a chicken, behind a curtain.” “Do you want to be a chicken?” I bravely put on my game face. I opted to go face-to-face. “Father, I have a confession.” I did the sign of the cross and said, “Please forgive me.” “I ate all the ice cream.” “I didn’t want to share it.” “I fight with my mom.” “I don’t like to wash my socks.” “I don’t like to wash dishes.” “I talk back to my mom.” “I don’t like going to church.” “I fight with my sister.” “I promised I would pick up my dog’s poop and I never do it.” The priest listened. “Go sit on the bench, I want you to recite 10 Hail Mary’s, 10 Our Father’s, and 3 Acts of Contrition.” I said, “Yes, Father.” I stepped out and did as I was told. I wanted to skip out on some of the praying. I was tempted to lie and say I rehearsed all the prayers. Then I remembered, “You can’t cheat God.” According to J.C. Brumfield, “Se tiene que vivir una vida de oracion, de alabanza, y accion de gracias.” So I prayed. I finished all my prayers. I didn’t want to get another pinch. When I finished I got up and told my mom I was ready to go home.
My mother had a very abrasive demeanor. In retrospect, as a child, it is difficult to understand why mother behaved like a witch. For me it functioned as positive punishment, her harshness made me want to turn into a bird and fly away. When I was little I dreamed of turning into an Eagle and flying away into the mountains. I wanted to escape. I gave myself the Indian name “She who soars like Eagle.”
I did. My thoughts and my imagination always allowed me to daydream and picture myself in different places while ignoring the places and the circumstances I was actually experiencing. Going to church was not fun. However, I am glad that I was raised with a strong religious background. In difficult times and in prosperous times, there is nothing more fulfilling then hope and faith in God. I recognize that now. I hope that my faith and my hope remains strong and that I never place faulty philosophies or technologies above God.