My mother, however, delighted in this highest, holiest of Catholic days – and showed her joy in the display of six clean and lovely offspring. Three boys in suits. Three girls in matching dresses, jackets and shiny black Mary Janes. We swore that she pinned the lace head cap right into our skulls.
Mass? By Easter Sunday we had been half a dozen times in as many days, had observed the fasting rules (staying up until midnight on Good Friday in order to eat M&Ms) and kept our Lent promises. (I give up pop, television, calling my brother bad names.) Holy Week was at last behind us, and soon, soon, the dress could go back in the closet.
But here is the crux of childhood Easter. We were better people then. There are days, I think, when I would sell my soul to be the little girl with straight bangs and an itchy dress again – she exists, in my memory, so whole, and in my mind I can trace her Easter route from start to finish.
Church. Latin words that I hadn’t yet prayed for solace, because I had never needed solace. So – just a drone unremarkable as the noise of honey bees. Sunshine through stained glass windows and incense tickling the nose. My mother’s unmitigated soprano soaring in glorious praise, my father’s occasional cough. (Dear God, let him get hiccups, I would pray my sole Easter prayer. Nobody got hiccups like my dad.)
Mass at last finished, we would go to Grandma’s. Tulips in bloom, and bird’s nests cookies. Gossip at the kitchen table, and the surreptitious teasing of the fat housecat.
From there to my aunt’s. Uncle Don was probably six feet tall, but he seemed as big as the sky to us; he could lift us all the way to the ceiling.
Older cousins who teased, aunts who scolded, the smell of peppered roast and mashed potatoes and the lull of adult conversation, and all the while . . . I think she knew. The restless little girl in the stiff linen knew even then how fast it was all sliding past.
And while she wanted the hell out of that dress and the day was dull beyond measure . . . Ah, wouldn’t it be good to have it back now? To see us as we were that day?
But Easter is all about joy, isn’t it? Cleanliness and that simple rock-hard goodness that, in adulthood, is as elusive as the last egg. How did my parents do that? How did they keep hold of that solid, essential all-is-wellness?
Another Easter. Tulips in bloom and little girls in dresses. Hot, drowsy sunlight through stained glass windows and my daughter’s voice the perfect echo of my mother’s. Holy holy holy.
Ah, life is still good, people. Jesus still loves us, and here we are, having straggled whole through another year. Take heart.
In fact, be joyful, people.
Happy, happy Easter.
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