Having been raised as an Olde Time Cat’lic (seriously, latin mass, school uniforms, nuns, the whole nine yards) I have a lot of Easter memories that are shared by a smaller and smaller group of people as I age.

As a modest 1950’s household, there was a lot of ~SPECIAL~ attached to the buying of new clothes, and for Easter, we WENT for it – fancy new dress, NEW SHOES, a HAT even and later, flowered headbands. Those fancy dresses were often so pouffy that we couldn’t stuff them under our dress-up go-to-church, coats. White anklet socks with ruffles on them…..this was seriously exciting stuff.

I'm there on the far left.

It was all so SPECIAL and the shoes hurt JUST like brand new, patent leather shoes DO the first time you wear them. Soles were slippery too, so there were sometimes tumbles on the runway.

Actually I DO remember this dress below. It was lavender, somehow I KNEW it was ‘dotted swiss’ (because my mother told me so) and truly, something like 55 years later, I remember the SMELL of the stiff fabric with the velvet spots on it. And that’s SOME HAT, eh?

And why all this dress-up? Just because. Because it was Easter.

And in an officially Vaguely Cat’lic household (meaning kids went to parochial school, but parents were pretty passive about it all) there was QUITE the  build-up – starting way back on Ash Wednesday, the beginning of lent. Most kids gave up candy for lent, but that seemed pretty pointless for me ( if we were meant to SUFFER through lent ) as we didn’t get much candy anyway. So for many years, I gave up SALT. Now for me, THAT was definite suffering. And my mother would get all fiendish and fix things that required salting AT THE TABLE, like baked potatoes, which I would piously gag down au naturale.

So that would go on for 40 days and then the big weekend would kick in. Holy Thursday, which would be first communion for whatever crowd was turning seven that year (oh, the dress-up that went with THAT! – Munchkin boys in white SUITS and munchkin girls dressed like micro-brides).

Now Good Friday I paid attention to beyond endlessly puzzling about the name, as I seriously failed to see what was GOOD about it. I do believe that somewhere in a box I still have my original little Stations of the Cross book with the ancient-looking illustrations. We would work our way around the church, stopping at the stone depictions of each of the stations and read the passages and say the prayers on each corresponding page. That part felt like an ancient rite.

The church was draped with somber purple and black, as was the priest, and all would change to white and lilies by Sunday. But at noon on Good Friday, we would all go silent for the next 3 hours. I truly liked that part too. Very mysterious. And I do recall MANY times how the sky WOULD go all dark.

By the time I reached the age of 10 or 11, the silence would be broken at precisely 3pm by the released blasting of transistor radios which rather tarnished all the mystery.

By my high school years I was becoming pretty disenchanted with the whole thing and began seeking out those Sunrise Services. Going out and away from home so very early, while the morning was still chilly and dark, and watching the sun rise with a group of like-minded folks felt much better to me.  It brought back some of that feeling of being a part of the mystery of it all.

I’ve spent a lot of years avoiding the Hersheyfication of holidays, so I don’t join the – what, 2 BILLION dollars – that was predicted to be spent on Easter sweets this year? How did we get from a holy man rising from the dead to a sugar rush?

Now I have GrandMunchkins. Three of them, aged five, seven and nine. So while I have contributed to the treats in plastic eggs leaning towards the ‘healthier’ sweets (fruit leather and craisins) in the past, this year I even backed off from that. I got them each a tiny gnome figurine. That’s all.

At this point, at my age, it feels far more important to impress upon them the astonishing mystery of ALL that springs back to life, all around them – and how it’s important that we take part in acknowledging that before too many things STOP coming back to life each spring. I gave some thought to hauling them all out for a walk today to see HOW many things they can spot coming back to life.

Seemed WAY more important than any new patent leather shoes…….

So indeed I gathered said GrandMunchkins, and presented the three small gnomes…..

three small gnomes for three munchkins

…off we went LOOKING for all that was coming back to LIFE. Little did I know what a treasure THIS would be. Paikea is the first to shout “Flowers!!!!” upon spotting the baby daisies carpeting the lawn. Jicaiya notes the dandelions. I ask about the third lawn flower and they all point to the daffodils. Yeah, ok, daffodils, but someone else who hangs out IN the lawn. Aulii announces PURPLE and we go scouring the spring-long grass and finally find the first few deep purple violets and then more and more and more.

And THEN the real fun begins. A sudden movement catches my eye and I see a tiny, green frog that I point out to Jicaiya. He’s ON it. With some grandmotherly coaching for him to be VERY mindful of long, delicate legs, he exhibits some serious finesse in approaching it gently and quietly and eventually picking it up.

Jicaiya EVER so gently picks up the frog

We talk about how its skin is sticky, showing us that it’s not a toad, it needs to stay moist. Jicaiya takes it along for the hike, stopping at MANY different puddles to moisten its skin (which I know isn’t absolutely necessary, but boy and frog both seem to be enjoying it). We visit the Hawthorns and look AT the thorns and visit a tree that cracked and fell over entirely (in a bizarre spring snowstorm a few weeks ago) and tell it we’re sorry it got hurt.

We’re all well booted for this soggy hike, but Paikea is having trouble maneuvering past blackberry branches because of her skirt. I note that NEXT time she goes for a hike in the woods, she should wear PANTS. “But I’m a GIRL!” she protests and her brothers stop. I howl back “I am TOO, but I know enough to wear pants in the WOODS!” and we all laugh.

When I spot perfect toadstool café tables for our gnomes the fun REALLY starts.

I spot the first faun lily in bud and Jicaiya puts his gnome next to it for the photo op

Aulii spots the TINIEST cedar SEEDLING and lets HIS gnome say hello.

And finally, Paikea’s gnome shows its flowers to a woolybear caterpillar.

But perhaps the best part of the trip, as we hoofed our way up a woodland path, soft with moss and littered with lichens, was when I noted that we must look SO HUGE to all the stuff out here and Jicaiya’s voice answered “Or so tiny”. I looked up to see HIM looking UP at the towering Doug Firs all around us.

And yeah. GrammaBee SMILED. Don’t bother convincing me that easter requires EITHER church OR chocolate. This was ALL about new life.

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