I had a strange, anxiety-ridden relationship with Easter this year, and I feel like I am maybe only now starting to sort out why I couldn’t jut embrace it as a fun, egg-and-candy-filled holiday.
For the last 15 years, Easter has largely existed as a reason to buy Cadbury mini eggs and eat ham. With no kids in the home, no friends with kids, no family nearby and no particular religious affiliations, Easter was just another food-centric holiday. Sometimes, it didn’t even register as a holiday at all, except in passing.
It wasn’t always this way. Growing up, Easter was one of my very favorite holidays. It meant a new dress for church – often made by my mom – and white shoes. I still remember the first Easter I got to buy grown-up white pumps to wear with my dress. Easter meant a big to-do at my grandparents’ house with my father’s giant extended family. As the youngest of 13 cousins, I was the last to believe in the Easter Bunny but usually managed to collect the smallest number of eggs in our giant backyard hunt, as my older cousins were really good at finding eggs. I remember all of us being banished to the basement while the adults prepared food. We would slide down the basement stairs on on what, to my memory, was a giant blue plastic egg-shaped wobble chair. I remember my Aunt Juleen’s “drunken weenies,” which weren’t drunken at all after some point. Deviled eggs.
There was church. Even more church than usual with all the choir rehearsals for the Easter contata. (“What’s a contata?” Joel asked.) There was the usual sermon about Jesus dying for our sins and being resurrected to join his father Our Lord in heaven where they would watch over us until the Rapture happened. As a small child, this story was terrifying, not comforting. It meant that one day I could also be persecuted, strung up on a cross because of my faith, but it would be okay because when I died I’d be in heaven. As a teen, the story was suspicious. I had friends of other faiths, or no faith at all, and in many homes Easter was just about a bunny and chocolate. I began to question. And as an adult, I formed my own opinions of Christianity, went my own direction in terms of my faith.
I noodled a lot about this post, because it is not about my intensely religious upbringing, nor is it about some come to Jesus (sorry, had to) moment I’m experiencing right now. That said, it’s a strange business to suddenly be part of Claire’s life, and to know that her own relationship to the holiday is so intensely different than mine was at her age.
When we realized we’d be playing the part of the Easter Bunny this year, I had an immediate, negative, angry reaction. And then I felt sad. I had a brief moment of wanting to stalk Pinterest for All The Easter Arts and Crafts, followed by a fleeting thought of trying to host some sort of extravagant Easter dinner. Then I wanted to go straight to bed and not have to think of it at all. All these thoughts and feelings happened in a single day, a handful of hours.
Poor Joel had no idea how to react to any of this, and I could not possibly explain what was going on. After a couple of sleepless nights and way too much coffee, I think it comes down to a couple of things:
- I have always had a weird negative response to Hallmark holidays. Things like Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, whatever. I’m one of those annoying people who would rather show people I love them all the time, or randomly, than on some assigned day designed to drive retail sales. I’m also not super keen on things like Cinco de Mayo or St. Patrick’s Day, the culturally confused days meant to give people a pass for getting wasted and making bad decisions. I prefer my celebrations to have a little more meaning, even if it’s not meaning TO ME. So my freak out, in part, was because the religious overtones of this particular holiday were absolutely non-existent in our house and I have not yet sorted how to explain my experiences with Christianity to Claire. I’m sure I’ll get there one day, but neither of us is quite ready for that story yet. I’m not even sure what story I want to tell, and I was as shocked as anyone that Easter would be the moment for it all to start bubbling up.
- I haven’t lived in the same state as my family since 2000, and for the most part I’ve been okay with that. After all, I have an amazing chosen family in California. When I met Joel and it started looking like we had a future, my feelings about it began to change significantly. My other cousins have brothers and sisters and kids of their own, but as an only child with no kids, there wasn’t the same glue to bond me to everyone else. (I also ran far and fast from Missouri, and spent a lot of time redefining myself.) Now that I’m back in the Midwest, I’m really feeling how far I am from everyone and those old experiences. There are no cousins nearby for a big egg hunt, no family to eat drunken weenies and deviled eggs. Not just for me. Claire’s cousins are all out of state, too. I haven’t yet made an extended family in Minnesota. I’m still Google mapping myself to get to most places! So the sadness was a little bit mourning my childhood, a little bit sad that Claire’s childhood won’t have that same family experience, a little sad that I didn’t have anywhere to go or people to invite over, and a lot of panic about whether or not I could just get on board with chocolate and bunnies.
The photos of me in past Easter dresses are sadly still packed away in the basement. I had hoped to share one here just to take the edge off how serious I’m being. Perhaps the one in the dusty pink floral dress with buck teeth and winged bangs, or maybe the one with the white pinafore and the jaunty hands-on-hips pose, or a pre-teen one with Sally Jesse Raphael glasses. You’ll just have to imagine for yourself, and know that I’m feeling much better now.
I am, however, wondering when I’ll be blindsided next with odd memories/feelings about my childhood. These moments almost never happened before Claire, before I had to think about how someone else would grow up and thrive.