Sunday, April 20, 2008

The distance was no more than about 200 meters between the chapel and the chateau. It was called a chateau, but it was more a glorified rambling farmhouse than a castle, with wings and rooms and sets of apartments and offices and the biggest kitchen I've ever seen built onto it over the years, formal parterres in the front, a tennis court hidden behind hedges in the midst of an ancient grove of almonds, and a wine cellar with nearly 500,000 bottles of wine. And it had my three qualifications for a perfect house: back stairs, a dumbwaiter and a secret room accessible through a set of sliding bookcases in the library (a room which turned out to be our bedroom for the stay). The weather was glorious - sunny during the day, but just short of hot, a blue sky clear but for a single cloud, as round and small and endearing as a bumblebee.

The Danish priest, who had been imported from Denmark down to Provence for the occasion, complete with that old-fashioned white ruff that only Danish priests still seem to wear, led the way to the chapel. The baby in his arms, the rest of us followed him down the front walk under the bare plane trees, out through the gate, down the road and up to the chapel, which was tucked away up a road going through the vineyards, in a clump of trees.

Stuffy and dim as a crypt, all 120 of us packed into the single room, with its low vault and crumbling stone walls, candles burning in every available nook and cranny. God only knows how old it was.

I understood barely a word of the service - Danes swallow the ends of words, so it just sounds to me like a slew of vowels with a few consonants tucked in for good measure - and the psalms were even hard to sing, the melody going unexpectedly this and that way. It went on almost too long for me, a feeling of claustrophobia was setting in when at last the service was over, and the baby was christened, and everyone streamed back out into the sunshine, congratulating the parents and his older sister, cooing over him and walking back down the dusty road, through the gate and up the walkway past the gardens, where wine and cheese and pate and all kinds of good French comestibles awaited us, and we celebrated until long past midnight, the baby sleeping fitfully on account of the crowd and not because he at last had gotten his true name: Sirius.

Me, after the onion soup at 1:30 a.m. or so, I slept like a prince in the secret room, the husband next to me, snoring lightly.

The Swedish word for the day is dop. It means baptism.

- by Francis S.

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