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Easters

April 21, 2019

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60 years ago, I bet I felt it.

At 3.5 years old, I probably knew something was up.

I opened my eyes.

And BANG: The Basket. In my bed. With me. With colored eggs in it. A huge chocolate rabbit. More, the basket was FILLED with things I could eat. Now. That I Loved.

It was a glowing crown on a glowing time for a wee 1959. I could eat dessert before the day even began. In my bed.

I was loved. My siblings came into the room, 8 and 14, sharing the giddy delight over the fantastic miracle of the basket.

Then a service where we were all together, the church was packed. There were flowers everywhere. And shiny shoes. And hats.

Then off to far away White Plains (now I know 20 minutes away). Ride an elevator to Aunt Fanny’s – somehow related to my Dad (she was his surviving step-mom). She was bespeckled, lumpy, with a British accent and hair that had no discernible strands.

She served truly soft, grey food and glowing mint jelly. We were sick to puking of a day’s full gobbling of candy, so we ate little. Then watched some broadcast movie on TV with Charleton Heston or Elizabeth Taylor or Jesus.

We rode home in sleep,and started the next day like all the others.

After a year or 2 more of these Easters, they became memories, sought amid crashing lives. We pantomimed the rituals but we walked on the eggshells of a chaotic home at home, despite the full Easter Presentation.

What was always there became unavoidably known to me. Alcohol, inadequacy, fear and disappointment turned into anger and cruelty. Screaming regularly commenced around 7pm after the 6:32 train allowed a dozen ounces of Vat 69 scotch to leverage what we all sought to contain.

But my father was not evil. My mother was not cruel. They were both deeply damaged – my father by a completely unconsidered life of extreme effort and never living up to his own hopes, and my mother by my father. She was, if possible, even less aware than my father of much beyond the necessity for self preservation.

So all the following Easters became chasing after the one in 1959. The next year my sister was 15, and in a meltdown of dealing with her own, normal, imperfect humanity, which triggered a screaming response by my parents only possible with the add of alcohol. My brother followed suit. And it went down hill from there.

But in 1959 it was different. Love was there. It left, but it once was. It never returned.

The miracle was that Easter, each Easter, was, and remained my favorite day growing up. The fulfillment of greedy gobbling was ever there until I was shipped off to a Buffalo 10 years after that first sentient Easter. So was church. So was spring. But my joy was not triggered by these stimuli.

For pure engorgement nothing topped Christmas. Unending toys filled the living room, there was unbounded gluttony feasting on things, if not candy. But no, Christmas was terrifying in the surrounding anger and tensions the season created, or more accurately, revealed.

We attended no Christmas Eve Service. I am assuming the insane prep made it impossible. But we went to church, together, every Easter.

No, the joy of these Easters was truly from within. From a within that was there, bizarrely, since those first Easters.

The gathering to church in Easter made me truly happy. No booze. No anger. No cruelty. I now know that a Sunday probably meant a hangover, as it was not a workday, so drinking was less circumscribed the night before. And my mother did Everything for Easter, so my father just watched. No pressure.

So the 10 minute drive to and back from church was happy. Then my sister went to California. My brother went to college. Then I went to Buffalo. And the island of connection to hope simply ended.

In Buffalo, I did not celebrate Easter and not for the next 10 years. Until I went to the church I am going to in 3 hours. I met my wife at Easter the next year. Our sons once sang in the choirs that reveal the beauty that transcends hope into the reality of expressed love. It is a full good thing.

Now our children have returned, we gather with a dozen dears for a feast at a restaurant after services, it is a great good time. It is a way to live what we know to be true – there is love, little fear, no cruelty, and now, precious little candy.

All the players of that 1959 Easter are dead, save one, my sister, who I have not seen in 15 years. Who lives 5 minutes from the site of that Easter.

The God I felt in those early years, who was there, right there in all those Easters, is better felt these days. I wish I could say I understood them, but I do not even understand Jesus.

But now, after 3 score years, I know that the muffled joy I felt in my grey flannel clothing was not from the basket, or the candy, or even the happy gathering and rituals.

It was Easter.

 

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