Last night the parish gathered to say Haere Ra - farewell - to their American missionary family. All the young boys present- and some of the men - painted a "Richard Sealy style" beard on their faces (only they referred to this beard style alternately as "Rich's Amish beard" or as his "Abraham Lincoln beard".) The whole parish gave us a beautiful night to remember, complete with an "American" meal of hot dogs and Twinkies.
unwrapping and putting on our new shirts
Before anything else could begin, the entire family was given t-shirts emblazoned with the words "I love New Zealand" - and we were ordered to don them. This was a massive "issue" for Maria, who had chosen her outfit with extreme care and was devastated to find it altered right off the bat. However, she was soon won over by the beautiful matching pink shirts that she and Bernadette received and sulked under the pew for only ten minutes.
Rich making a really weird face, Maria is still under pew
Joseph's new shirt
Once we were wearing our shirts, the night alternated between deeply moving speeches, a beautiful slide show and uproarious skits. An ongoing hassle over the past two years has been the sheer volume of traffic that comes to our door on a daily basis. In each skit our co-worker Matt was dressed up as Richard (even wearing Rich's own clothing) while various characters rang "our" doorbell for various outlandish (but true!) reasons and at various outlandish (but true!) times of day. In each skit, Matt portrayed exactly what he thought Rich might be thinking when the doorbell rang and how Rich actually would respond to each supplicant.
The speeches were a mix of serious and silly. My favorite line from the speeches: one of the young men shared a new term he has recently coined, inspired solely by Richard's unique sense of fashion. The term is "SNandals" - short for "Suit 'N Sandals" - Rich's signature Sunday style. True, my fashion-forward husband not only wears a suit, tie and Birkenstocks to most Sunday Masses, but on cold days he finishes off this incredible look with a pair of nice floppy white sports socks. The women here all envy me like mad. They dream of their husbands dressing with such debonaire confidence. The men are too shy to imitate this cutting-edge American trend at present (Kiwi "tall poppy syndrome", you know), but I'm sure once we leave, the bolder ones will hop on the bandwagon.
NB: if any of Richard's potential future employers are reading this, I solemnly assure you that I would never let him turn up the office dressed in just SNandals and white socks. I would make sure that he also wears a nice holey old hoodie underneath the suit jacket, in a unique upcycled fresh style somewhat reminiscent of the old-fashioned sweater vest.
Fr. Michael giving his speech, complete with Amish beard
The MC, our coworker James, teased Richard extensively and lovingly during his speeches, but left me untouched. Rich told me that James had said I was "too scary" to make fun of. I can't understand that. Neither could Fr. Michael. His speech (and his random comments during my speech and Richard's) made that quite clear.
Rich giving his speech
It was an awesome night of many laughs and a fantastic feeling of community and love. Near the end, Fr. Michael made all present rise, cover their hearts and sing the American National Anthem. That was awesome. Especially since the only other time I have heard that song in the past two years there was something in it about the "twilight's last reaming" (Superbowl XLV) - so technically last night was the ONLY time I have really heard that song in two years. But then the Twinkies got passed around and I was embarrassed to be American (my goodness, there are so many FAR more delicious things I wish they would associate with America!).
Afterwards most of the youth went with Rich and our girls to light a beach bonfire under the full moon. Joseph and I went to bed........except that the doorbell rang (twice) between 9pm and 9:30. It wasn't part of the skits anymore. This is real life. Good luck to whoever inherits this house! We will be praying for you!