I left for my walk early this morning, clad in a down coat, big hat and warm mitts – it was, after all, only 27 degrees when I departed. There was ice galore in big puddles in the street, and, as I neared the Park, I noted that two solid days of rain had taken its toll on the worm population. There were worm bodies scattered along the sidewalks, either washed out of the grass from the downpours, or they had slithered across the sidewalk and frozen stiff in last night’s cold temps. It buoyed my spirits that maybe Spring was here (though I really have my doubts) when I noticed a corner house with a long row of daffodils, standing staunchly, their blooms resembling yellow frilly Easter bonnets.
As I wound my way around the trail at Council Point Park, I had to pay attention to the asphalt because black ice had collected at every bend, especially where the path runs parallel to the Creek.
I had stuffed some peanuts into my coat pocket for my furry friends, although I considered they might be confused about the cold weather and try to sock that cache away somewhere for the leaner days ahead. Three or four of my peanut pals bounded over to see me, which of course made my day, and they were content to munch their treat right there at my feet, instead of dashing off to squirrel those nuts away for later.
As I strolled along, I recalled some Easter weekends when the outside temps felt like a Summer day. When I worked on site, I always took Good Friday and Easter Monday off to make a mini-vacation. Most of the time it was warm enough for the initial raking up and early pruning and all that fun yardwork that has to be done come Spring – you know, the kind that leaves you stooped over for three days and nursing blisters where you grasped the rake handle to thatch the lawn. Many an Easter weekend you’d find me outside working just in my sweats, not even a light jacket.
But, not this weekend – far from it.
There isn’t even the slightest hint of Spring at the Park either. The occasional cheeping of a small bird interrupted the stillness of the morn. It was a rather austere setting there since it’s too early for goslings and ducklings to ooh and ahh over and there are no bullfrogs a croakin’ in the Creek yet either. Just the still barren-looking, yellowish-brown landscape and alot of bare trees.
As I strolled along, thoughts of Easter past churned around in my brain. Though some of the days are long gone from the pages of the calendar, they are still fresh in my mind, a treasure trove of memories, to be sure. I always know I can cherry pick the best vintage memories and put them front and center for safekeeping, with a few recollections to be left behind, as they are considered duds.
The way I see it, that myriad of memories is like a cheery Easter basket filled with delectable goodies. The sweet pickings and tasty treats are beautiful in their gaily wrapped foil – almost too pretty to unwrap. Beribboned chocolate bunnies beg you to “try me first” and jelly beans are scattered on shiny cellophane grass that sticks to your clothes and tracks around the house. You may choose to savor the best of the bunch, but know that the second string goodies shall keep, languishing ‘til later.
Sorting out those vintage memories as I strolled along, I vowed to share them in my Easter Saturday post, so here are a smattering:
My early Easter memories were good and stick in my mind. I always got a chocolate bunny which I’d stick into the fridge after the holiday to preserve it until one of my parents would accidentally on purpose drop it so it would break and we’d have to eat it. My mom always made Easter cookies – sugar cookies shaped like chicks, eggs and bunnies, icened white and sprinkled with pastel sugar. There was a new dress, bright-white knee socks and fancy, often uncomfortable, shoes to wear to Sunday school, and sometimes a new coat and hat as well.
I recall a grade school classmate who was Romanian. For show-and-tell she often told about her country’s customs and brought in items from home to talk about the native culture. One time near Easter break, she brought along her mother whose hobby was creating beautiful Easter eggs. The teacher lined the eggs up along the front of her desk, each on its own pedestal, glimmering in the sunlight streaming through the classroom window. The eggs were gilded and embedded with tiny rhinestones and beads and very pretty, and my classmate’s mother hovered nearby her creations. When the teacher reached to pick one up she cautioned in broken English “must just look at – mustn’t touch, alright?” That statement made me glad for our family’s simple Easter traditions.
As I detailed last year in my post about egg decorating, growing up, I might not have had beautiful or ornate-looking Easter eggs buried in my Easter basket from my parents, nor my grandmother, but I wasn’t hard done by either. We always went to Easter dinner at my grandmother’s house in Toronto. We would take a ham and some side dishes and dessert – usually lemon pie. Nanny supplied the hard-boiled eggs for the holiday. She would collect her onion skins in a canister and hard boil a few dozen eggs on Easter Saturday. They looked a little pitiful; some were rust-colored, others a pale brown, depending on how they moved around as they bubbled away in the big cast iron pot. Had Martha Stewart been on the scene, she’d have wrinkled up her nose in disdain, but so what. There was no searching for eggs out in the yard, so no fanfare about egg gathering. One just opened the fridge and grabbed one or two of those brown-colored eggs out of the nondescript Tupperware bowl on the top shelf. You peeled your egg, then shook a little salt into your open palm and dipped that egg into it. A dozen eggs usually went home with our family after Easter dinner so we were relegated to eating egg salad sandwiches for a few days afterward.
My grandmother would empty out her wicker sewing basket, its contents bagged up and hidden away for a day, and that old receptacle would become resplendent with a beautiful tall bunny gracing the middle of the basket and plopped down on the bed of Easter grass. There were chocolate eggs, which were a treat as I rarely was permitted to eat chocolate or hard candy growing up. Around the rim of that basket those fuzzy yellow chenille chicks would be perched, their delicate, orange wire feet gripping between the woven wicker strands.
One Easter we visited my Uncle Bill at his farm and he gave me my first pet, a white rabbit named Scratch. His white fur was so soft, and he had a pink velvet nose and a wonderful disposition. He lived in a bushel basket in the basement and I had him several months, when we decided it was inhumane to keep him in a basket all the time with no exercise so we took him back to the farm. I was heartbroken that day.
After we moved to the States it was a quiet Easter setting for us. Depending on how late in the season when the holiday fell, we’d sometimes go to Toronto, but if Easter was in March, we rarely travelled due to the bad weather.
I spent Easter break the year I graduated high school, 1973, with friends of the family in Puerto Rico. He had a teaching position there for a year so I went down to visit them for ten days. They both spoke fluent Spanish and we had great weather the entire time. I got burned to a crisp the first day while we walked around El Yunque, a huge tropical rain forest, despite wearing a wide-brimmed sunhat and glasses. We visited a casino in the Condado beach area and when we left the resort, just as the car pulled up for us to get in, a large tarantula dropped from a palm tree onto the car roof and walked right into the car via the open window. Alfonsa and I screamed, and we refused to go home until a carcass was produced, so instead we took a lengthy, and expensive, cab ride back home.
In 1975 I went with five fellow students to the National Model United Nations Conference in New York City. We represented Egypt and my partner and I had to participate in the International Monetary Fund. We spend alot of time prepping for the conference, learning every fact and figure we could about Egypt and the IMF. We had our afternoons free and spent them roaming the City. It was uncharacteristically hot that week and I remember we climbed to the top of the Statue of Liberty in temps which were well over 100 degrees inside that huge copper Lady. We felt as if we’d pass out by the time we got up to her crown. Easter Saturday we treated ourselves to an evening at a big multi-level discotheque. Disco music was all the rage at that time. We danced the night away in the City that Never Sleeps and woke up a few hours later, and fueled on black coffee and Peeps, we raced downstairs to join the crowd which lined the streets to watch the Macy’s Easter parade.
The vintage Easter memories get a little tarnished as the years rolled by.
Some holidays were just so-so, others memorable for last times gathered with loved ones. My mom and I made an impromptu trip to Toronto to visit my grandmother and aunt for Easter 1985. It was totally a surprise when we arrived on Good Friday mid-day. I went to church services at the end of street with my grandmother. My aunt sneaked out to the store on Saturday and bought fixin’s for Easter baskets for all four of us. It was the last Easter we would ever spend together.
In 1986 I started a massive landscaping project in the front and back yard … it took me the entire Summer beginning on Easter Sunday, which found me knee-deep in clay trying to yank out old, overgrown bushes and small trees in the front garden. My neighbor, a Southern gentleman, returned home from church services and came over with his big axe and finished off the big roots, which I could not tackle. Over the course of the Summer, I enlarged the perimeter garden in the back, lugging home 40-pound bags of soil, 8-foot landscape ties and bags upon bags of bark. It was an exhausting effort and it wore me out and broke the springs on my AMC Pacer.
In 1997, one of my coworkers made extraordinary-looking (and tasting) Easter chocolates. She did made-to-order novelties and her specialty were huge pastel chocolate suckers shaped like bunnies or chicks, which she sealed with cellophane and adorned with a matching bow. She parlayed this creativity into quite a business for Easter and most holidays. Those suckers were so darn cute but I had no kids or relatives that I could buy them for. However, there were two cute little boys that lived at the top of the street and I passed their house on my way home from the bus stop each day. They were just a year apart in age, and not yet in school, or on half-days, and every night when I passed them, they’d wave and shout “Hi Miss Linda” and I’d wave back and respond “Hi ya guys”. This went on most every day in good weather, so I decided to get two of those big suckers for my admirers.
Well, I stopped that day and tendered my treats and got big thank yous and hugs as well. They wanted me to go inside and see their rooms, and their trucks and assorted treasures, which I did. As the only grandchildren in the family they were so spoiled, with toys spilling out of toy boxes and teddy bears lined up along shelves in each of their rooms. I remarked that I’d been collecting teddy bears for years and also had them on a shelf, a dresser and chest of drawers, and that those teddy bears threatened to overtake my room if I let them. Well, their mom laughed at that comment. A few days later, on Easter Saturday morning, I opened the door after hearing a rather timid knock on the screen door. I saw a pair of towheads standing there with huge grins on their faces. One of the little boys thrust out a gift bag to me and said “Happy Easter Linda” then they both ran as fast as their short legs could carry them to where their mom was waiting at the end of the driveway. I peeked in and saw a little brown teddy bear in a pink rabbit costume. I went out the front door, gave that bear a little hug and said “I love it – thank you so much” … well, they were all gleeful then and went skipping down the street, ten paces ahead of their mom.
They moved from the city a few years later, and I continued to get Christmas cards with the annual school photos of the boys tucked inside. I marveled how they grew so quickly from year to year. And, then they moved out of state and got older and we disappeared off one another’s holiday card list, as often happens. On a whim, one day I looked up Kurt and Kyle on Facebook and those little towheads were all grown up. They were tall and tattooed and each a diamond stud in their ear. One had a buxom blonde hanging on his arm. I guess I thought they were always going to look like those cute little boys at my front door that day … I’m kind of sorry I looked them up, but I’ll always remember that day every time I see that little bear and every Easter as well.
In 2006, my birthday was on Good Friday. A knock came at the door that morning – it was a driver for Ed Lobb Florist who asked if I was Linda, then handed me a huge long box as my mouth gaped open. There was nothing on the outside of the box to indicate who sent the gift, but inside, was the largest group of Springy looking flowers – a whole mess of tulips, daisies, and wildflowers, so many that I didn’t even have a vase large enough to put them in, and had to resort to a coffee jar or two and borrow a vase from my next-door neighbor Marge. A note inside said “hope this puts a spring in your step as you turn 50” – it was from my boss, to whom I had bemoaned turning 50 a few days earlier.
The sad memories are there as well, but for now I’ll leave them up in my mind, and not share them today … perhaps I’ll just leave those sorrows tucked under the Easter grass with the Cadbury Crème Eggs (sorry Cadbury, they’re not my favorite).