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  • rebeccaforster

A Basket of Joy


 I am busy making Easter baskets: one for my 39-year-old son and one for my husband. My son’s treats come from Trader Joe’s because he likes all-natural stuff. My husband will get boxes of Hostess Cupcakes and bags of M&Ms. I prefer jelly beans and Peeps. I do this because tradition, and especially Easter, if important to me.

    Pastel eggs and chocolate bunnies appear in the grocery stores like soft-spoken messengers: spring is coming, the weather is turning, flowers will bloom. Easter also reminds me of the lessons I learned as a child, ones I didn't even know I was being taught.

            Top of mind is the sound of my mother’s sewing machine. Money was tight, so my mother made our clothes. My sister and I were decked out in puffed-sleeve dresses and crinolines under the wide skirts. There were a few years of mother/daughter outfits. More than once we walked into church looking like Cadbury Cream Egg yokes. Yellow was a favorite color. To make things perfect, my father would present each of us with a corsage: carnations for my sister and me, roses for my mother.

            From my mother’s selfless hours at the sewing machine, our careful dressing Easter morning, and my father’s gift of flowers, I learned that pride in our appearance was not a bad thing. We honored the community by dressing up properly, our parents honored us through their care. I also learned that small things—like a corsage with a pink ribbon—was as precious as a diamond ring in a velvet box.

            Church was next.  While Good Friday was dark with the crucifix draped in deep purple, and the three-hour vigil commemorating Christ’s death interminable for a child, the experience was not wasted. Without knowing it, I understood words like solemnity, introspection, and sorrow.  I was too little to name those words, but I felt their meaning in my bones. The definition was in the way the adults bowed their heads and murmured their prayers. I learned discipline. My knobby knees felt like they would break from kneeling so long, but I didn’t get up until everyone else did. Lastly, I understood there was safety in numbers, and comfort in ritual. For a child, that was priceless knowledge.

Then there was Easter Sunday and the world transformed. The altar cloths were snow-white. The priest wore white and gold vestments. Sprays of lilies were on the altar. Something wonderful had happened and the words joy and rejoice took on meaning. It was glorious.

When we were done with church, we went home where Grandma and Grandpa (who were not Catholic) waited for us. Hats and prayer books put away, my brothers and sister and I lined up by the back door. We were each handed a basket festooned with ribbons. My father would throw open the door with a flourish. Once again, the Easter Bunny had found us.

We were ridiculously polite. My brothers ran (nicely) during the hunt, but my sister and I poked around like little ladies. I will never know how it happened—for certainly it was an Easter miracle‑ but the four of us ended up with just about the same number of eggs and chocolates in our baskets. Or maybe it wasn’t a miracle at all. Perhaps this was just the Easter spirit teaching us that life, in the end, is pretty fair and fun. Present yourself as if you mean to live the day right, show up where you’re supposed to, and be good. If we can do that, we’ll get a lot of what we need, enough of what we want, and a few extras thrown in for good measure.

No matter how you rejoice today, I hope your Easter is filled with joy.

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