I have always loved Easter, really almost as much as Christmas. I think I favored those Easter holidays, which reign right up there alongside Christmas, because my folks made those early days so special and fun. Heck, even losing a tooth at my house was made special for “us kids.”
But, Easter was altogether different than, say, the lesser holidays such as Valentine’s Day or St. Patrick’s Day…duh. I think because even in my wee imagination, Easter, to me, seemed the definition of renewal and reality’s promise of warmer weather ahead. It excited me when I thought about it and sometimes gave me butterflies in my stomach. Yet somehow, every year around Easter, those expected reveries started to ruminate, bringing false hopes to my childish desires; I’d forgotten about the frigid weather yet to be endured. I was jumping the gun, so to speak, which ultimately led to agitation. April can be a fickle woman; she can be sweet and warmish sometimes and nasty and unforgiving the next.
April in Ohio can be bitter cold, and waiting for the longed-for summer days to appear could be brutally tedious. I can’t explain the eagerness I felt. It was almost euphoric. Whenever I thought about summer and the warmness of a ray of orangey sunshine working its way across my pale, boney back, I felt delirious, kind of like a person in love for the first time. It made me spin with delight, and I wanted it to be soon! And, when that did not happen just because I wanted it to, it was disappointing and depressing indeed.
Spring fever was definitely upon me. I craved those hot summer days when I lived in shorts or a bathing suit until school started. Another thing that bummed me out was about the time the chocolate bunnies, yellow marshmallow peeps, and fruity jelly beans were gone, my sisters and I would find our hopes up against a hard freeze because warm weather had become a pipe dream and just another wish to build a dream on. Ohio would occasionally have snow on Easter Sunday! At best, the sun might shine that day-which fooled us into thinking it would warm up by the time we had to walk back home.
But for now, we would have to brave the cold air-so cold we could see our breath wafting ahead as we complained vehemently to each other about our long walk to church. In actuality, it was not even a mile, but it felt more like ten! More often than not, it would rain on Easter! Bewildered and seething at the mouth, we would pretend the weather was warm by unbuttoning our coats and taking off our gloves. Soon it became apparent the myth we were weaving was only a figment of our imaginations. Sadly reluctant, we broke down and started re-buttoning our flimsy coats and yanked up our stockings as high as they would go before our red-as-fire legs fell prey to frostbite.
I found out later there’s no postponing Easter like Mom suggested one particular Easter Sunday when the thermometer dipped so low the daffodils all died in our front yard. “You kids are going to end up catching colds; let’s all just stay home.” She half-kidded, probably wishing she could climb back into bed to warm up. I know now she meant well: four sick kids at the same time is every mother’s worst nightmare. There might have been another reason too. She didn’t drive at the time and probably didn’t want to walk either, but walk we did, and as fast as possible to keep warm.
“We do not put Easter Sunday on the back burner for any reason,” Grandma remarked when she got wind of our plans to skip church due to weather conditions beyond our control. Grandma knew the Bible backward, forwards, and upside-down. Whatever Grandma said was gospel. Postponing Easter Sunday for another week was a no-no in her book.
Most Easters were cold! But we were anxious to wear our fancy, new, summery clothes. Our outfits usually consisted of pastel dresses and darling matching lightweight spring coats with a pretty beribboned pink or white carnation corsage pinned to our lapel. And, of course, we wore the proverbial white gloves and dainty straw or feathery felt hats, which were a must.
Another hot fashion for little girls of the day was the snappy, strappy black patent-leather shoes known as Mary-Janes. Everyone just had to have this fetching style of shoe! One wore them “for good” only. “For good” must have meant only for church because that is the only place I was allowed to wear mine. Unfortunately, one walk to the car and they were soaking up slush like an alcoholic at a beer fest. Ultimately, with every step we took, this gray mess was ruining our shoes also mudding up our ruffle-topped anklets. Some years I would cry all the way to church! I hated ruining my new shoes and socks. The only thing that made me feel better as I listened to the minister wind up his hour-long sermon, was all that delicious candy back home sitting patiently in my Easter basket, waiting upon my return. Hello!
One fun and amazing thing my parents did every Easter until I think I got married was preparing in secret all the luscious trimmings that goes into a well-dressed Easter basket- like creatively decorated eggs with cute paper bunnies and chicks that cleverly rose off the egg as if it were alive. I cherished the eggs with my name printed on them. I kept them in my Easter basket almost till they rotted and had to be thrown away. I never permitted those eggs to be a part of the Easter egg hunt. No way!
As a kid, there was no such thing as boiling or coloring your own eggs, at least not at our house. The Easter Bunny did that. It was so magical and a lot of fun, no matter how old one got. When we awoke on Easter morning, there sitting on the dresser across the room would be four large Easter baskets, all in a row, beckoning us to dig in. As a little girl, I wondered how mine got there without me knowing. “Well, the Easter Bunny brought it,” Daddy would grin devilishly.
“But I didn’t hear him,” I would whine, rubbing the sleep from my eyes.
“That’s because it was the Easter Bunny. He’s a very quiet animal,” Daddy explained.
Another thing I didn’t realize when my parents were taking such pains to entertain us was how difficult it can be to prepare all those Easter baskets in one evening while the children are sleeping. Being quiet that long was not that easy either, especially for the kids’ dad. He would give out about halfway through the ordeal, as he called it, and go to bed. If I were lucky, I would get to bed before 2:00 AM, but usually much later. The clean-up was horrendous! The things we do for our children to make them happy would fill a book! A mighty big book!!
I followed this Easter ritual with my own four children for years until it became “the thing” to let the children help dye the eggs etc. Somehow, for me, that mode of reversal diminished some of the fun, even if I did initially ponder an easier way of doing things. Besides, the children were getting older and not such believers in the Easter Bunny anymore. Yeah right. By the time the kids were done decorating, my kitchen table and floor had become a brand new color, whether I liked greenish-purple or not. Don’t let anybody tell you that Easter dye doesn’t stain.
Happy Easter, everyone! Let us not forget what Easter is all about: Easter is the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, our Lord, and Savior, who died on the cross for our sins so we may have life everlasting.
Here’s a gentle, loving message from my daughter Laura Francis-Torres to all our valued readers: “Isn’t it wonderful that God loved us so much that he would send his son to die for our sins before we even knew him, and all we have to do is turn from our sins, ask to be forgiven, and trust that what Jesus did on the cross for us was enough to satisfy our debt with God. Don’t wait until tomorrow: choose to follow Jesus today before He returns.”
I am sure Laura’s Great-Grandma Nellie Clark-White, a devoted follower of the Lord while on earth, is looking down from heaven above with much pride and endearment for my girl.