|A random picture of a Guam baptism. Mom and baby have no connection with the story below!|
An elderly lady was sharing with me her experience of being a new mother many years ago.
She hadn't even given birth yet, and some aunties, related not to her but to her husband, were already deciding who would be the baby's godmother.
One of the aunties put the claim in first to be the godmother. A second auntie said she would sew the båta, the baptismal gown. A third auntie said she would make the desserts for the christening party. This was all back in the 1960s.
The lady said, "I gave birth, and within a few days, me and the baby were out of the hospital and the aunties were already there to take over everything. Siha la'mon."
This was not the first time I had heard stories of Chamorro aunties being aggressive with newborns and pushing, to some extent, the mother aside as far as certain decisions are concerned. I have even heard of aunties and godmothers deciding the name of the baby, and not giving the mother the prerogative.
And, even today, I hear of people who more of less insist that they be the godparent of a baby not even born yet. "Este na påtgon para guåho," they say. "This child is for me!" Or, "Iyo-ko i patgon!" "The child is mine!"
To non-Chamorros, this might sound bizarre. But, I think, most Chamorros interpret all this as well-intentioned intense interest in the child. What can be said in favor of this is that many Chamorro godparents take their roles seriously; being a major part in the child's life through the important events of the child's growth.