I was in my early thirties and my mom was still giving me an Easter basket.
My extended family of siblings and nieces and nephews had gathered at my eldest sister’s property in Redmond for our annual Easter egg hunt and my mom, with an index finger pressed to her lips to ensure secrecy, beckoned me to her bedroom. “Don’t tell anyone,” she admonished as she handed me a wicker basket filled with plastic grass and Cadbury eggs. I giggled. I was the youngest of seven and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy a bit of preferential “baby of the family” treatment now and then.
Easter used to be a big deal. I am the daughter and granddaughter of Lutheran ministers and understood the significance of the holiday in Christian theology. As a young girl, Easter Sunday meant big, formal dinners with relatives we rarely saw. Ham, scalloped potatoes, asparagus. Rhubarb pie, if we were lucky. The Saturday evening before Easter was always spent curled over mugs of vinegar-scented egg dye, creating colorful hard-boiled eggs in pastel hues. As we got older and my siblings had their own babies, the holiday moved north to Redmond, to my sister’s five acres in the woods. She spent hours of effort planning, stuffing and hiding dozens upon dozens of plastic eggs throughout the flora and fauna. The egg hunt was a production of grandest proportions and afterward we’d gather for another feast–less formal by now and punctuated by happy shrieks from babies and toddlers–but no less magnificent.
By the time my kids were born, the five acres had been sold and the annual egg hunt pretty much retired. The Mister and I spent a decade or so doggedly attending church at a progressive Lutheran congregation nearby. I had a close friendship with the pastor who confided in me that in clergy circles “Holy Week” (the week between Palm Sunday and Easter) was widely regarded as “Hell Week” due to its demands on church leaders. For a few years, I did the whole shebang–smudge of ash on my forehead on Ash Wednesday, congregational soup suppers during Lent, waving palm fronds on on Palm Sunday. And then, after a less-ambitious egg hunt in our surburban yard, we’d drag our kids to the Easter Sunday service. The normally half-empty worship sanctuary now bursting at the seams with the C & E parishioners, or “Chreasters”–those folks who only step into a church on Christmas and Easter. It wasn’t long before our family decided to skip the crowded holiday service altogether and enjoy our deviled eggs by ourselves.
I made a valiant attempt to keep the Easter train chugging. I offered to host a big dinner at my house, but by now most of my sibling’s families were grown and moving on to other traditions. Last year, with my son in Philadelphia and myself in Portland at a writing workshop, I bemoaned the fact that Easter was, in fact, dead. “It’s not like we ever really did anything to celebrate,” my daughter said. Ugh. That made me sad.
So, this Easter, with my kids now 22 and 18, there will be no baskets filled with fake grass. (The cats always ate that stuff anyway, and we’d find it, well…you know, later.) I completely understand my mom’s insistence that I still got a basket, even when I probably shouldn’t have. It’s that last-gasp-grasp to cling to the way things were. Honoring traditions that perhaps have been worn hollow. Wanting to halt the passage of time. A desire to keep our kids (and maybe ourselves, too) just as they were, as opposed to embracing who they are now. I get that. Holy Jesus and Mary, I totally get that.
Instead of ham, there will be salmon on the grill. Green beans and smashed potatoes. Homemade peanut butter eggs and bags of the only candy that counts on Easter–those little Cadbury eggs with pastel-colored crunchy shells.
Hallelujah. Happy Easter.