A very Happy Easter to you, dear readers.
The topic of today’s post is not, as one may infer from the title, this mess, but instead, the Easters of my misspent youth.
As a child growing up in the banjo-riddled fens and dales of SW Ohio, Easter was for me a day of sweet surprises and infernal discomforts. The sun would usually be peeking through the clouds as I awoke, bleary-eyed and restless from a thin sleep (having been kept awake most of the night by excitement and anticipation of the basket awaiting me below, trying to figure out if the Easter Bunny, falling into one of my hastily-improvised traps, would be furious and smite me on the spot, or reward my ingenuity with an EXTRA batch of treats. Given that the Easter Bunny sounded a lot like my Dad angrily muttering “Now what the hell is THIS?”, I never descended to find out). I would stumble down the stairs and, in the early years, try to find where my basket had been hidden.
Was it behind Dad’s Barcolounger? Nope. Was it behind the sofa? Wrong again. Was it in some way related to the large, basket-shaped lump behind the living room drapes?
Ladies and gentlemen, we have a winner.
To this day, I don’t know how my parents did it. My continued faith in the existence of both Santa and the Easter Bunny despite mountains of empirical evidence to the contrary was due, in large part, to the sheer bounty that appeared on Easter and Christmas morning. How could my parents, mere mortals that they were, provide such splendor? Here, nestled in a throne of whispy green Easter grass, was a giant Peep™, resplendent in his sunny yellow coat of tooth-destroying sugar, attended by a host of bunny retainers in blue and pink and green. Here was a book I’d been coveting but could not afford on my allowance of, y’know, NOTHING. Here was a king’s ransom of jelly beans, a veritable rainbow of deliciousness (this was before it became, ahem, “cool” for jelly beans to taste like something found on the floor of an especially dirty theatre). Here, in the center, was not one, not two, but THREE Cadbury Cream Eggs, each one heavy with the promise of creamy satisfaction (followed by oft-repeated and deeply-felt conviction that eating these things more than once a year would almost certainly be fatal). And, standing over it all, perhaps wearing a cheery bow tie or a saucy bonnet, was a Giant Chocolate Rabbit. Here, in short, was what every child EXPECTED to appear on Easter morning, and more. As an adult, I see my parents’ willingness to make do with old shoes, mended clothing and cheap (or no) nights out on the town as the sacrifices they were, but back then I could only think “Man, Dad and Ma need to ask the Easter Bunny for some new stuff!”
This solitary ritual was amended some years later when my sister KR was born. At first I was mildly concerned that another kid to visit would mean less loot for me, but instead I was amazed to discover that not only did I receive all my usual stuff, but there was a slight increase in the bounty, as if the Easter Bunny was saying to me “That’s right, it’s just like AmWay – the more people you bring in, the more you make!” My mother, wearing the same robe she’d worn since the early 70’s, and my Dad, gazing at us fondly through glasses that were cutting-edge when Eisenhower took office, smiled as my sister and I tore into our baskets like rabid wolverines, gleefully conspicuous in our consumption, blissfully unaware that Dad was working 80 hours a week not because he enjoyed calibrating parts to the billionth of an inch but because he enjoyed moments like these.
By the time KM came along, my sister and I not only hoped for great Easter baskets, but expected them. We’d long since worked out a system for redistribution of loot – I would take all the licorice jelly beans off her hands in exchange for anything with a discernable head (Peeps™, not having really distinguishable features, were exempt). Whereas I adamantly refused to eat most things with a head (biting the head off anything, even a candy bunny, made me feel like either Ozzy Osbourne or George C. Scott in Firestarter), KR positively relished the act, happily chomping into their defenseless bodies with zeal not normally seen outside the lion cage at the zoo. I’m not sure if she enjoyed the act itself or the discomfort it caused me more, but either way, the candy community remains utterly terrified of her to this day, whispering stories about her to their tiny candy children in order to get them to behave.
That’s right, my sister is the Cucuy of Candyland. There – I said it.
But I digress. Sitting here, a woman in her early 30’s, trying to figure out if the Peeps™ I contributed to the groaningly overloaded Easter baskets my nieces and nephews received this morning will even register in their awareness as they whip themselves into a sugar frezny, I find myself taking a moment to reflect on the rest of Easter morning. Ma, her hair and makeup expertly applied and coifed, elegant in her Easter best, sitting me down to comb my hair with water, struggling to keep herself dry and my unruly hair in order. Dad, obviously uncomfortable but very handsome in his suit, checking his watch for the hundredth time, every fiber of his being focused on his Easter mission, which is strikingly similar to every mission wherein Swiss Family Jackson must travel anywhere on a schedule:
1) Get to church at least an hour early, as parking takes forever and you know that bastard Williams will take the shady spot by the trees just to spite us
2) Get home as soon as possible so that the suit can go back in the closet where it belongs and a man can sit down to a decent dinner, damn it.
Church was a necessary and solemn component – the reason for the season, as they say, and the contemplation of one’s faith and the notion of triumph through resurrection certainly whetted one’s appetite for Easter Dinner.
Oh, Easter Dinner…I’d describe it, but you’d never eat again, saddened by the fact that anything you eat will not, cannot be as exquisitely delicious.
What the hell, you’ll learn to live with disappointment.
My parents, having spent the night before skulking around planting Easter baskets in various locations, trying to not make any noise that would disturb our gossamer-thin sleep and cause us to leap from our beds to discover they were, in fact, the providers of our basket bounty, now went about their remaining duties. Dad went into the living room to watch television (aka, fall asleep immediately but retain sufficient awareness of his surroundings that changing the channel was impossible) and Ma, already tired, set about serving up the Easter feast. Magically, the banquette filled with steaming delicacies. Salad picked at the height of freshness, dewy with rinsewater…ham studded with cloves and pineapple…chicken fried crisp and tender…corn dripping with fresh golden butter…pie exploding with cinnamon and apples….
See, I told you.
After dinner, we’d all crawl to our respective lairs to recover for a while, then reconvene to play a game of cards or a board game (and, inevitably, after mild but completely insincere protest, more pie).
That’s Easter to me. It’s not so much about the things anymore, but about the togetherness and the tradition. These days, Grammy and Grandpa are doing well enough that the grandkids’ baskets don’t beggar them for months to come, but I know my Mother, despite the fact that the kids aren’t at her house until mid-day on Easter, is still up late, setting out baskets so they’ll be the first thing my nieces and nephews see when they arrive. There’s usually a note or a story from Grandpa about how he almost shot a bunny for dinner but decided he would let him go since he dropped off so much loot for his bratty grandkids. KR, KM and I have gone from basket-receivers to basket-givers, and for the most part, we’re okay with that. I certainly don’t need any candy laying around the house, and if I need a Peeps™ fix, I can trot off to the Kroger and buy some for myself. KR has (mostly) gotten over her love of decapitating helpless foods, but she usually catches my eye long enough to chomp down on at least one rabbit every year, her face a chocolaty rictus of triumph when I turn green around the gills (to nobody’s surprise, The Little Emperor inherited this trait from her, and now I must contend with two serial candy murderers mocking me with their crimes).
I wish you and your family a very happy Easter, friends. Whether you’re Pagan, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Trekkie or something else, I hope you have a chance to celebrate the renewal of the Earth, the renewal of life, and the renewal of your family for the year ahead.