A slight diversion from the writing world this morning.
All this week, I’ve been thinking about Easter celebrations of my childhood years in the Chicago area. When Easter fell in March, we donned spring dresses and coats to walk to church in sharp north winds, even a little snow on occasion.
On one of those bitter cold Easter mornings, I had a new spring coat and hat that I’d looked forward to wearing. Mother told me it was much too cold to wear it. “You have too far to walk to church. You’ll freeze,” she said.
I begged and begged. “Please let me wear it. I’ll wear a sweater underneath.” Tears slipped from my eyes as I waited for her to give in. They were genuine, not a ploy. Wearing that new coat was a monumental need at that moment at age eight.
Mother relented, but I did have to wear the sweater I’d proposed underneath my lightweight, pastel colored coat. And I was probably very glad to have it as my brother and I headed to church to hear the Easter story once again. My parents never attended church with us. Theirs was a mixed marriage—Dad was Catholic and Mother Methodist, and neither ever gave in to the other. But we kids all attended the Methodist church and Sunday School. Dad polished our shoes every Saturday night so we’d look our best on Sunday mornings.
The Easter Bunny usually brought us a few chocolates, jelly beans and a new comic book. He also hid brightly colored eggs all over our living and dining rooms. Later in the day, aunts, uncles and cousins would join us for a special dinner. Mother usually fixed a leg of lamb or a big ham, glazed with brown sugar and mustard, cloves inserted in the scored top. Lots of side dishes weighed down the dining room table, scalloped or mashed potatoes, two or three vegetables, a jello salad, homemade rolls, pickles, olives and pickled beets, and a springtime dessert of some kind. Cream pies, berry pies, or a cake with whipped cream frosting.
When we were all too full to move, the dishes had to be done. No dishwashers, but all the women pitched in and they were finished in no time amidst lots of chatter and laughter. My cousin, Carol, and I were drafted for this work at an early age. We had to dry the silverware, a job neither of us liked. We hurried through so we could walk to the park to play the rest of the afternoon. No malls to go to in the 1940’s, and no stores open on Sunday. We played outdoors or occasionally went to a movie to finish the Easter Sunday celebration.
The rebirth of springtime flowers, trees and bushes still symbolizes the meaning of Easter for me. Christ’s resurrection created a rebirth for all Christians, and as He taught us to love one another, I also think of the love of family as part of our Easter celebrations of long ago and also of today. We will be spending this Easter holiday with our daughter’s family, going to church, having a celebration dinner, and being together. Not so very different than all those years ago.