Spring has arrived. We are in the season of universal renewal. For me Spring is a religious celebration. I am one who refers to it as Easter, but there are other names for the spring solstice. I would like to share a moment, to reflect back. Maybe gain perspective for the season.
Easter is my happy time. I miss the 50s and 60s. I miss the innocence. I miss the gathering of cousins and aunts and uncles who came from hundreds of miles to spend Easter break on my grandfather’s farm. It was like an Amish celebration with tradition and expectation.
Ah, the memories of childhood. Each year my sisters and I donned shiny white patent leather shoes and fresh Buster Brown socks saved for the occasion. We had new puffed-sleeve dresses made of that sheer embossed synthetic that was popular after WWII, matched with a pastel cotton duster. We dug out our white gloves and brimmed hats with tiny pastel paper flowers on the bands, along with little purses that held a hankie and a nickel for the collection basket. We traipsed to the front yard and waited for someone to record the occasion on a small Brownie camera
The solemnity of Easter is still fresh, especially the rigorous 12-hour fast, remembering not to eat anything on Easter morning before Mass so that we could take Communion. Staying up late into the night to finish sewing a new outfit. Buying that first pair of high heels at fourteen.Pulling the Easter baskets out of the closet where they were stacked away.
Then, the Easter Picnic. Spring grass and wildflowers burst forth across a five-acre pasture where the Easter Bunny and his helpers spread eggs over a five-acre woodlot. We searched along the creek, behind oak trees and sycamores, avoiding the piles of sheep poop that looked surprisingly like black jelly beans in the shade. Later our mothers made us divide the hard boiled eggs so that each child got the same amount.
We picnicked on old blankets and tables that were carried into the pasture in the back of pickup trucks for the older people to sit on. In the pasture, lambs bounding near their mothers, pausing to press their noses into their mothers’ sides to nurse. Sounds of mothers and babies baaing, children laughing and exploring the creek while our own mothers sliced ham and arranged platters of fried chicken.
Hams, lamb roast, fried chicken, potato salad and a dozen side dishes served up by a grandmother and her five daughters and daughters-in-law. Yeast breads and fresh-made butter, homemade pickles, jams and sourcraut. Angel food cakes with fluffy icing, trimmed with coconut and jelly beans. Chocolate cakes, cobblers and trays of sugar cookies that we cousins decorated along with dozens of colored eggs.
Our Easter picnics continued for two decades. Memories are hardwired in the minds of cousins who recall the shockingly bright, crisp sunshine after the Daylight Savings time change. Excited conversations overlapping as everyone talked at once, the energy of a reunited family that had not seen each other since Christmas.
We teens experienced each sensation with a bittersweet longing as we contemplated college and grandparents grew more feeble. Each act of the picnic drama evoked an ache that everything would change. And change it did. The family clung to traditions as best we could as we settled in seperate cities and states, the ultimate American story.
Now we are the grandparents who have the five acre woodlot. We hold Easter at our house. The extended family is gone, spread out across several states. Fewer cousins, but I keep the traditions for my children and grandchildren. We have Easter baskets and an egg hunt. We frost cookies and color eggs. We drive golf balls in the pasture before we picnic on tables and old blankets. Wild geese and turkeys replace the sheep, but my grandchildren don’t miss what they never knew. This year I bought a new Easter dress from Coldwater Creek. My granddaughters will wear theirs to attend Mass with me.
Afterwards three generations will take time to reflect, pick wildflowers and follow the dwindling flow of our meandering creek. Seven dogs will run loose in the meadows. It will be a time of breathing in fresh, crisp air, For me, a time to recall the risen Christ.
Even if we don’t share the same religious convictions, or we refer to it by different names, this is a time for giving thanks for the season passed and the season to come. For everyone a day of crisp skies and hopefulness.