Recently I started thinking about Easter in our run up to the holiday. It's been good, it's been bad and it's been quite strange.
When I was a kid, growing up in what I would have to term a religiously-schizophrenic home with a Catholic mother and an Episcopalian father and Methodist grandparents I never knew for sure where we were going to go to church for Easter that year. It all depended on who was talking to whom, who was where and various other dysfunctional family follies.
I knew three things for sure about Easter. 1. At least one grownup would get shit-faced drunk and rehash some boring old ancient grievance that would end the afternoon with someone in tears and someone else leaving in a huff. Ham and indigestion, unlike Thanksgiving, which is turkey and indigestion from this same behavior.
2. My Easter basket would be overflowing candy and goodies.
3. I'd be forced to wear something frilly and girly in some hideous pastel shade with white patent leather shoes when I'd rather wear jeans and a tee shirt. Ugh. This was my mother's idea.
A memory popped into my mind recently about Easter. Something I'd never share with my husband or anyone till the other day. For more than a few years every Saturday before Easter my sainted mother would ask me to help her put together Easter baskets for the children of the sharecropper family that lived on my grandfather's farm. I never quite understood why until years later when a family member spilled the gin-soaked beans - those kids were my grandfather's other kids. Yes, so somewhere out there I have half-aunts and uncles. I wonder about them, and hope this holiday finds them well.
When I had a family of my own I dropped large family get togethers with alcohol and resentments, moving far away from my family of origin, continuing on with the piles of candy tradition and made a few of our own new traditions, like making these chow mein noodle and melted marshmallow nests with jelly bean bird eggs and baking Jim's mother's sugar cookie recipe.
Once we joined our fundamentalist church Easter, like all holidays, took on insane levels of stress, pressure and conformity. Everything had to be P-E-R-F-E-C-T. I made my kids dress up much like my mother did me. I dressed up and we all went to church followed by a lavish sit down dinner I'd started slaving over two days before. In the aftermath I was always wiped out and wanted nothing more than to sleep for days.
When we got out of our old fundamentalist church I never wanted to dress up and do things 'the right way' ever again. One Easter we did a picnic with another family up in the Shenandoah Park, but now that the kids are grown and out on their own we usually bring some casual food up there and do a relaxed Easter dinner. That's what we're going to do tomorrow and I'm looking forward to it. Today I did the deviled eggs, the Easter nests, the cookies and the potato salad. Tomorrow morning I'll make the Virginia ham biscuits and the others attending will do most of the sides.
Now looking back at all the various Easters I have to say our relaxed no pressure one is the best one for me. Expectations suck. Fighting relatives suck worse. Sometimes church really sucks.