Me on Easter 1942
Do you remember when little girls had new spring coats and hats to wear for Easter? The one I'm wearing in the photo above was navy blue and white. My dad always said this was his favorite picture of me. It's a most unusual one because I am looking so pensive. Usually, I was chattering and smiling. Maybe I wasn't quite sure about that strange man--the photographer--who was taking my picture.
We lived in a third floor apartment in suburban Chicago so the Easter Bunny hid the eggs we had dyed on Easter Saturday in coffee cups filled with hot water and dye tablets. We soon learned all the hiding places, including our dad's shoes, and gathered the brightly colored eggs in no time at all. My brothers and I usually received a small gift from the Big Bunny, too. A comic book, a paper kite, or those balsa wood planes for my brothers. Maybe a bottle of bubbles to blow through a wand for me. We didn't have the large amount of chocolate the kids today get on Easter.
When Easter fell in March or early April, we donned colorful spring dresses and coats to walk to church in sharp north winds, even a little snow on occasion.
On one of those bitter cold Easters, I had a new aqua-blue 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. I think I was very glad to have it as my brother and I headed to church to hear the Easter story once again.
My family never went to church on Easter Sunday. Or any other Sunday! Mom had been raised Methodist and Dad in the Catholic faith. Neither one would join the other so they stayed home and sent my brothers and me to Sunday School at the Methodist church. As I got a little older, I stayed for the church service, too. I spent many weekends with a cousin my age whose family was Catholic, so I went to church with them. I married a Lutheran whose family went to church every Sunday. I joined the Lutheran church and go regularly to this day. It's been one of the biggest pluses of my marriage.
Even with no church service, my family celebrated Easter with a big meal. At least one of my dad's two sisters and their family joined us in our small apartment for a mid-day dinner. Somehow, we all fit around the table that literally groaned with food placed in the center. Round and round those serving bowls went, adults helping the younger children fill their plates. My Uncle Jimmy piled his plate high, swung his tie from the front to the back of his shirt and dug in. He barely came up for air until the plate was cleaned of food. Then, he wiped his mouth and mustache with his napkin and waited for the dessert he knew my mother would bring from the kitchen.
We usually had a large baked ham that my mother scored two ways to make diamond shapes. Then she put a whole clove into the spots where the lines intersected, glazed the ham with mustard and brown sugar and baked until it was just right. Sometimes, she put slices of pineapple on top of the ham along with the glaze. Scalloped or Au Gratin potatoes were served with the ham. I now wonder how in the world she managed to fix both those items in the small oven we had. Sometimes, Mothers can work miracles. We had at least two vegetables, a jello salad, and homemade yeast rolls to round out the menu. Dessert could be cakes or pies made the day before. The adults sat around the table with coffee cups being refilled over and over after dessert was finished. The kids were sent outside to play in our apartment courtyard or at the city park a block away.
As my girl cousins and I got older, the playing outside was exchanged for helping with the dishes in our tiny kitchen. No dishwashers then. Instead, we had a sink full of soapy suds and a drainer with clean dishes for the ones with big flour sack dish towels to dry. After that was done, one of the dads drove us to the movie theater, dropped us off, then came back to pick us up after we'd been entertained by one of the great Hollywood musicals of that era.
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. It isn’t only the ones of my childhood but for today, as well.
Have you written your Easter memories to pass on to your children and grandchildren? If so, good for you. If not, consider making this the year that you do it.