I loved Easter when I was a kid. My mom made sure I had a new dress, a fancy hat, lacy socks and new shoes. Every year I got a new pair of pretty white gloves. My brother Robbie always got a new shirt and clip-on tie. If he grew over the year, he got a new suit, or at least a new vest. Mom was always dressed pretty and Dad looked so handsome in his suit.
The year Mom and I had matching dresses was heaven. Navy blue with white daisies. I thought we were The Shit. (I didn’t actually think those words, I was seven and didn’t say the word “shit” until I was 14.)
We always got up early to go to the 6:30 am service. I didn’t like that part- it was as bad as getting up early to go to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and standing there freezing for hours. Fond memories now, but at the time it was torture, especially the years we had snowstorms or it was an early Easter and it was freezing. Poor me in little white shoes walking through snow. I felt so grown up the year Mom let me wear tights. It was cold that year too.
We sang Easter songs in school- “Here comes Peter Cottontail” and “Easter Parade”, songs I’m sure they don’t sing nowadays. Teachers asked us to bring in ribbons and scraps of fabric and things to decorate our fancy hats and it was a stroke of luck if you could get your hands on some plastic or fabric flowers to glue to the brim. We paraded around the school for our parents and we got to keep the hats. We thought we were pretty enough for Fifth Avenue.
When I got older, I used to make Easter Egg treasure hunts for my brother. I would put clues in the plastic eggs leading him from one hiding place to another. When we were done, we would get our Easter baskets- pink plastic for me, blue for him. We would get a few handfuls of candy that would sink to bottom of the basket so we would have to dig through the Easter grass to find them. Chocolate rabbits and toys and stuffed animals and later on, makeup and small pieces of jewelry- my parents always knew what we liked.
Dinner was always at my Great Grandma’s house in Richmond Hill (and then later in the retirement village out East). Grandma and Aunt Marion always had bowls of candy on the end tables and we were allowed to eat one piece before dinner. It took an hour trying to decide which piece to eat. The kids (my cousins Tracy and Craig, my brother and I) would play in the yard or do gymnastics on the furniture. When they lived in the retirement village, we would be allowed to go for walks and look at the statues people had in their yards (ducks dressed up in raingear, dogs with bunny ears). Before dinner I would help set the table, taking the plates from the breakfront that now stands in my own living room. I learned to set a proper table, fold napkins and which fork to use under the watchful eyes of the Arfmann womenfolk.
As I got older, these traditions carried over into my own family. We got up early for church, the girls always had pretty new dresses (my mom insisted) and I did treasure hunts with eggs for the girls. We took the girls for bunny pictures, went to the neighborhood egg hunt (and started it early the first year we went. I got a little excited and shouted “GO”, lol). I decorated the house for days, helped decorate the church and made sure the girl’s Easter baskets had everything they liked.
When we started going down to Grandma Jo’s house in Hilton Head for Easter, the celebration didn’t stop- the Easter bunny came to South Carolina and left baskets there and we attended early morning service on the beach. One year Grandpa barbequed and it was different and wonderful.
Easter was always a big deal. I loved the hymns and the service was so special. “He is risen, Hallelujah!”
Because I no longer subscribe to an organized religion, the past few Easters have been very low-key. I found a nearby church with my friend, but I’m hesitant to join and get hurt again. I go when I feel I need uplifting or if I need communion with others. I didn’t go on Easter morning because I was scared it wouldn’t be “my” Easter service, the ones I’m used to. Silly, I know. I would rather live with good memories than try new experiences. It’s just something I have to work out after my stint at St. A’s.
We didn’t even get the decorations out this year. Beena and the grandkids went down to Florida and weren’t going to be back for Easter. Only Utah and KevKev and his brother came for dinner and MR had to work. Dad went to Dorothy’s house and spent Easter with her family. Zombiegirl is 18 and doesn’t get a basket anymore. We colored eggs after dinner ON Easter. It was so different than the holidays of my past. But that’s okay. I feel recharged. I have tons of ideas for when the G-kids come for Easter next (even if it isn’t on Easter Sunday. They’ll be older and our traditions will be a blast.
And by then I may be able to set foot in church on Easter morning.
by Irving Berlin
In your Easter bonnet, with all the frills upon it,
You’ll be the grandest lady in the Easter parade.
I’ll be all in clover and when they look you over,
I’ll be the proudest fellow in the Easter parade.
On the avenue, Fifth Avenue, the photographers will snap us,
And you’ll find that you’re in the rotogravure.
Oh, I could write a sonnet about your Easter bonnet,
And of the girl I’m taking to the Easter parade.