Friday, April 22, 2011

Easter Back in the Day

When I was a kid, Easter was the holiday you had to work for.

The hunt for the perfect Easter dress would heat up a few weeks in advance of Easter Sunday. This was a process that would almost always end in tears as mom would make her choice, I or my sister would pout, and so on, until a dress was chosen in exasperation that made none of us happy. (This was later rectified when Mom decided to sew our Easter dresses - which established a whole other interminable, labor-intensive and emotionally draining process.)

The rehearsals for the Easter program would begin in earnest at least 2 months ahead, as every kid in church was handed a part of the Easter Story (from the Triumphant Entry, through the Last Supper, Betrayal, Trial, to the Cross Carrying, Crucifixion and then Resurrection/Ascension + Various Eyewitness Accounts) and expected to memorize ALL of the King James verses and recite them dully into a microphone to beaming parents. I was usually given something about Peter's denial, or the stone being rolled away. My sister managed to always get the short verses.  Typical. 

Oh, lord. The flashback I'm having!

Then there was the hair preparation -- oh, the hair preparation! All day Saturday watching my mom get redder and redder in the face as I tipped back in the kitchen chair, all my hair poured into the kitchen sink, and my mom labored to shampoo, condition and then detangle and roller set my thick curly hair in giant pink rubber tubes. And then watching her do the same thing with my sister.  Spending the rest of the day dyeing dozens of hardboiled eggs with rollers in our heads so tight they pulled our eyes upwards into little slants and we could barely blink.

And then the next day, waking up early on Sunday - new shoes, new dress, new tights, new exhortations not to mess up our hair which hung in long, perfect ringlets, thick like bratwurst. Rushing to church, taking care not to crush our hair, our dresses, our Easter baskets, our eggs for the hunt after church, not to scuff our shoes. Watching my hair grow bigger and bigger with the day's humidity. And really cognizant that my little sister looked cuter than I.

(Poofy on a tiny person looks cute; poofy on a person who's already shaped like a poof looks POOFY.)

Fidgeting through a sonorous Baptist sermon on Christ's rising, sweating in the gold sunlight of the sanctuary. Hair still getting bigger while the ribbons are limper. Watching the clock tick past noon, past one...and now the Easter program. Lining up in the foyer of the church, desperately trying to remember my single piece of scripture (without which Christ isn't truly risen), loudly reciting my part, painfully watching a girl struggle through her piece which she forgot, balefully staring at my sister as she squeaks out her piece and runs back to Mom's lap. Typical.

And then, somehow, oblivious as a group of church men leave the sanctuary to walk across the street, to the janky abandoned lot, to hide Easter eggs. Did we ever clean this lot? I don't think so. It was filled with the detritus of the South Central neighborhood around our church - broken bottles, cigarette butts, beer cans.  Did we care? No. As soon as Christ was risen, ascended into heaven and various eye witness accounts were shared, we were dismissed. We ran across the street, crashing through weeds, old tires and wires, to hunt eggs. It was really a wonder none of us ever needed a tetanus shot afterward or fell over a dead prostitute.

But I also remember how upset we all were when, years later and Easter egg hunts were well in my past, the lot's owner decided to build an ugly stucco apartment building on it. The unjust-ness of it almost made me cry.

After such a long day, my sister and I would change out of our dresses and into our play-clothes; but we kept our fancy hair and we'd lay on our stomachs on the livingroom floor, peeling eggs, eating chocolate and watching Star Trek while the grownups talked after dinner.

There was no better feeling than this - the luxury, excess, indulgence, naughtiness and prettiness all mixed in together. All marked with a smear of chocolate across our lips. Heaven. Thank you, Jesus.

May your Easter festivities be as randomly joyful.

4 comments:

Delia Christina said...

hm. re-reading this, i could probably get rid of a few commas.

Songbird said...

No, I love it and them. Joyful Easter to you, too.

tedra said...

Easter was huge for us, too. Somehow it barely registers on Linus's radar. Probably because he isn't properly churched....

No Nonsense said...

I had patent leather shoes which scuffed easily, were yours the same kind?

Happy Easter