Perhaps no other holiday evokes more guilt from me than Easter. As my father was a devout catholic, this was his most favorite religious holiday; and with my mother a protestant, I was always well dressed for Easter, complete with new white shoes, a hat, and a new dress — although often hand-made or handed down from my older sisters.
These memories flooded through my mind as I sat with my children at the local diner Easter morning, where we ended up because Russ and I realized we were out of eggs for breakfast. And out of bacon. And we didn’t want to serve pancakes because they had more than enough sugar in their Easter baskets to last well through summer vacation.
The longer I sat watching my rag-tag family, the more I chafed. Both daughters sported dirty hair, Katie wore a yellow fleece that was so dirty it looked brown and Olivia was wearing the same hockey sweatshirt she’s worn every day for the last three weeks. The clincher was Russ, who chose to entertain our 8 and 11-year olds by hanging a spoon off the end of his nose.
I sat there and wondered where had things gone so wrong? Why aren’t my children dressed up for Easter? No hat. No miserable white tights to match the shoes. Dear God, why aren’t they even wearing clean clothes? And Russ, for goodness sakes, really? A spoon on the nose? We are eating OUT.
Truth is, I don’t normally care too much about these things. I’m a pretty easygoing mom, to say the least.
But as I looked about the diner, filled mostly with single older adults, or older couples eating before dashing out to Easter Service, inferred by their unusually nice dress for Vermont on a Sunday, I saw only my failures as a parent.
I should be torturing them by making them go to one of the two most boring yet beguiling of church services: the death and the resurrection of Jesus. I should be torturing them by making them wear scratchy tights whose crotch reaches your knees by mid-service. I should torment them a bit more with long days visiting with very old relatives who smell funny. I should make them eat an early dinner comprised of mushy vegetables, ham, and scallopped potatoes using only their best manners.
But no, I took them out to breakfast because I ran out of eggs at home, and I let them out of the house looking like scallawags. Happy Easter!? I hoped no one would greet me that way today. I didn’t feel like I deserved it.
I was not being the best breakfast mate. I excused myself from the table to the restroom, to escape my husband’s spoon-dangling nose and my grubby kids and gathered my thoughts.
No, this was not our best effort for Easter. This is, however, the first Easter we’ve been completely disengaged from church all year, because Olivia’s hockey schedule and our chosen church’s schedules are incompatible. And we’ve been busy all weekend attending hockey games of the Women’s World Championships (IIHF) in our little town – a rare opportunity to see the world’s best women hockey player! And with both my parents are deceased and no family within a four hour radius, we’re on our own for this and most traditionally “family” holidays.OK. So those are my excuses.
As I wrangle with guilt that I don’t take my children to church, that they don’t really understand Easter’s Christian symbolism, and only associate Easter with the chocolate the the Easter “bunny”, I remember that my best and abundant memories of the holiday are not about the church piece.
Dad and Mom would be so angry with each other because we were late to church and had to stand in the back — a given for the Christmas and Easter catholic masses when my mother indulged my father by letting us go to church as a family — as opposed to him going to mass while we went to the Presbyterian service with Mom. I did like getting new clothes, but I hated having to wait for Easter to wear them. In the end, after so many years away from home, my strongest memories are of looking for the Easter eggs my mother would have hidden all through the house, in the cleverest of locations and the joy of the hunt. I remember the basket next to my bed first thing in the morning. Those are my most fond memories.
And those are the ones I have worked to make for my children.
Without the church piece.
Am I doing another disservice to my kids? Maybe. Do I want them to be church-less? No. Do I want to take them only to church on Christmas and Easter? Absolutely not!
I could have married someone who was a regular church-goer, a true believer and marched my kids through sunday school and bible school in the summer. But I didn’t. I married a questioner, and a deep-thinker. And we respect each other for our different approaches and together we are trying to raise children who think and ask questions and formulate their own opinions. We will get to religion. We will. It’s not like we don’t discuss it. We ARE raising morally strong children.
OK. So, back to the breakfast table. I vowed to wash the girls clothes. And to make them take a bath today. And then the food came and I didn’t have to worry about that spoon on Russ’ nose any more.