I stepped from Plank to Plank
A slow and cautious way
The Stars about my Head I felt
About my feet the Sea.

I knew not but the next
Would be my final inch -
This gave me that precarious Gait
Some call Experience.

Emily Dickinson, c. 1864

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Easter 2016

Easter Sunday long ago
I'm not sure exactly which Easter Sunday this was, but I can probably figure it out by our ages. Since our sister PJ was not in the picture (she was born in 1950), it had to be in the 1940s. I have a vague recollection of that couch and the dress. Mama dressed us in identical outfits, except mine was yellow and Norma Jean's was pink. Daddy must have taken that picture, scanned from an ancient Kodachrome slide. It held up very well over the years, reminding me of that long-ago day.

I suspect Mama also made those dresses. Our hair was curled for the occasion, after having suffered little pincurls held with bobby pins all over our heads during the previous night. I have so many memories of Mama combing my hair out from that ordeal; she wasn't gentle as she wrestled her two little girls from urchins to angels.

But to this day I cannot remember what else we did on Easter Sundays. I do recall that we had a big Easter dinner, a ham studded with cloves and pineapple, baked in the oven, along with potatoes and some vegetable. And colored Easter eggs, of course. I haven't done that in such a long time, but I remember dying them various pastel colors, using wax pencils to make designs on the eggs before immersing them into the dye, and fishing them out with little metal spoons. It's probably much more technical these days, but I suspect that yesterday there were many children and their parents around the world busy with the same task.

I know we didn't go to church, since my parents were not religious and didn't teach us anything about the meaning of Easter. To me, it was the Easter bunny, an Easter egg hunt around our backyard and Easter baskets with that green plastic "grass," jelly beans and chocolate bunnies. I don't think I was introduced to those awful marshmallow peeps until later in life. I know I've always disliked their sickly sweet taste. But they are also associated with Easter in my memories.

Once I grew up and had children of my own, we decorated eggs and my son had an Easter basket for a few years. Since my early adult life was so much more chaotic than my own childhood, I don't think I carried many traditions forward, but coloring Easter eggs remained a constant.

When I was a young girl still in high school, I discovered religion. We were living at that time in Albany, Georgia, and I started attending the local Episcopal church and was taught the true meaning of Easter. It's a little curious to me that today, in 2016, the only place that Easter is even mentioned is inside a church or in discussions about the food. Families gather for Easter dinners, and even I was invited to join a family for their Easter feast today. I declined, however, because it's just not a priority for the two of us. Attending church is also something I will not do, and sometimes I look back on my years of church attendance and wonder why it, too, fell away.

There is only one thing I am required to do today, and that's to write this post. Once I finish it, I'll start the rest of my day and, as I do every Sunday, join my coffee shop friends. We'll talk and enjoy each other's company, and then I'll come back home to watch a little TV, read a book of short stories I checked out at the library, and basically just relax. It's also the day I don't usually do any significant exercise and give myself a break. That's actually hard for me; the days when I exercise enough to get my blood flowing are much more enjoyable than those where I just sit around.

So I might go for a walk, if the rain lets us, that is. I heard it pounding on the roof during the night, hard enough to wake me up. I listened to it for awhile before I drifted back to sleep. I know that it's supposed to be rainy today before we have a few days of sunshine, so most likely I won't get a chance to work in the garden. Now that's a true enjoyable rite of spring, and exercise to boot. I am so busy pulling weeds and working the soil that I forget how much work it is until I find myself shedding clothes. When I think of the garden, it brings a smile to my face.

Easter Sunday. My thoughts drift to the Easter story, of the resurrection, memories of when I would wake on Easter Sunday after having spent four days in retreat from the world during Holy Week at the Benedictine convent. When I lived in Boulder, the abbey was located just outside of town. Since that time, they have moved to another area, but they are still providing retreats in their new abbey. While much of the Roman Catholic church has become more secular, these contemplative nuns still wear habits and are cloistered away from the world. The only time I would see most of the nuns was during the Benedictine daily offices. I can still remember their liturgical singing, a lovely memory.

I know what they are doing right now, those nuns. They spent the entire night in prayer and preparing food for the retreatants. When I left my little retreat room and stepped onto the porch on my way to Easter breakfast, there was a basket filled with still-warm cookies and decorated hard-boiled eggs. And the atmosphere in the entire convent was one of joy and thanksgiving. These nuns were celebrating the return of Christ from the tomb, and that memory fills me still to this day. I left for Boulder before the Easter Mass, because people were coming from miles around and I didn't want to lose the quiet contemplation that I had enjoyed for the past four days. I drove away from the Abbey as everyone else was arriving.

It's not as if I have missed out on any of the joys of Easter, from my early days with my parents and sister to the very different religious days. Today, this Easter Sunday, I will enjoy spending time with SG and my coffee shop friends, perhaps a visit or two with neighbors, and even spend a little time in contemplation on a quiet walk in the beautiful place I call my home these days. In the winter of my life, I am content.

And I am also listening to my partner softly snoring, my tea gone and the day beckoning. I sincerely hope that however you celebrate this Easter Sunday, you will spend at least a few moments thinking about those you love, both present and passed away, and give thanks for them. I know I will. Be well until we meet again next week.


Linda Reeder said...

Your memories always trigger mine. We are both children of the 40s. I still have my Easter basket from my early childhood. At the time there were three little girls in my family and we each had a woven basket. My mother reused those baskets every year and I can remember very well looking forward to finding them on the kitchen table early Easter morning. More children were added to our family, but never more baskets like those original three.
This year I filled that same basket for Irene. I have a slightly bigger one that I got from Tom's mother's house that is of the same era, and this year I filled it full of treats for Isaac. I will collect those baskets in a week or so and store them away for another year.
I see from Weather Underground that the worst of the wind and rain are moving off, headed your way. So I think I will get out for a bit of a walk this morning. I'll put together a fruit salad and we will be at Jill's house by 1:00 for dinner. There will just b e six of us this year. Jan's partner is with family in California and Jake is working, delivering Amazon packages for the USPS. We will take him a basket of goodies and left overs this evening.
Jill and the kids are going to church. All over the country my extended family members are going to church. I am not. I can't go and pretend any more. My sanctuary is my natural world. I will spend some time in it.
Happy Easter Day to you, dear friend.

Far Side of Fifty said...

Happy Easter! Jen, Andy and the boys are here, we are enjoying our time together!
How cute are those dresses, and those curls...what a wonderful old photo! :)

John's Island said...

Hi DJan, I enjoyed reading about your memories of Easters past. It always interests me how I can relate to so many of your reflections having experienced the same or similar things. Does this make us typical? I don’t know, but I like it. :-) Wishing you and SG a very happy Easter.

Anonymous said...

I used to attend Mass on Easter Sunday, but no longer do so. I am now an atheist.
Your routine today sounds like a good one. Sorry about the rain. Here in Hawaii, it is dry and sunny.

Marie Smith said...

Your post today makes me think of my grandparents with whom my family spent the holidays. Hard working, salt of the earth people, Easter Mass after the three previous days of religious ceremony, turkey dinner, Sunday drive, visiting friends, are all great memories of growing up.

Thanks for the memories! I hope your day was great!

Elephant's Child said...

Another lovely post.
My nephew's wife sent me photos this morning of the whole family (her parents included) decorating eggs. Big smiles.
I don't think we ever did it. I heard about it, but we didn't do it.
Have a lovely day. And send us your rain.

Heidrun Khokhar, KleinsteMotte said...

Yes I think that spending a loving time with family oand or friends is part of the social aspect of this Christian day set aside. I left the Catholic church long ago but the decorating of ebggs is still happening and brings smiles. I love your photo .

Rian said...

DJan, I agree that your memories of past Easters are similar to mine. Easter in the 40's and 50's. My older sister loved to dress up. 9 years younger and a tomboy, I didn't. How I hated those Easter dresses! And we did go to church... and still did until my 3rd child was born. After that, it got difficult. But it didn't change how I feel about my religion. Just never believed (as I heard somewhere)that God took attendance. I think that as I aged, religion became more personal. Loved retreats! Used to go every year for a while here at Montserrat. They were silent retreats... where I became aware that my relationship with God was very 'one on One'.
But Easter is still a very special time... and even if we spend it hunting Easter Eggs with grandchildren or having an Easter dinner with family, we haven't forgotten it's true meaning - which is Love - (however you look at it).

The Furry Gnome said...

Yes, Easter is a special peaceful time. A good time with grandchildren here. Happy Easter!

Red said...

I certainly knew of the Easter story but never celebrated it other than a good traditional meal. I think those who celebrated Easter in a formal way have a different view than the rest of us.

Arkansas Patti said...

Sounds like you have a very pleasant Easter planned.
Your memories stirred a bunch of my own and many were similar to yours. The pin curls made me smile. I did that ritual most of my early years and well into my 20's. I found it interesting that the nuns provided decorated eggs. That is kind of the pagan side of Easter.
I kind of miss our ritual raw egg tossing contest. It was great fun and the dogs loved the cleanup on the ground.

Trish and Rob MacGregor said...

Beautifully written!

shortybear said...

such a nice post.

Rita said...

I had to chuckle at the pin curls! My mom tried to put my sister's and my hair in pin curls many times. She wasn't good at it. With our stick straight, baby fine hair if you didn't get all the hair wrapped properly you had a frightful mess of curls and little mouse tails sticking out all over your head. So I learned how to do it and took over doing both out hair and even did mom's, too. Do you remember the rubber spools they came up with?

Easter and Christmas were the only times we went to church until we went to confirmation (Methodist). After the confirmation years I never returned and stayed home with my dad. ;) Lots of memories.

Deb Shucka said...

What a lovely reflective post - a life told through Easters.