Except for our sky, these early spring days are mostly gray-brown, like weathered wood. The last patches of snow linger on blonde grass and shadowed flowerbeds. No green leaves yet, pink or white froths of blossoms overhead . . . or yellow daffodils popping up in front of the porch lattice. Seems we are at least a month behind when it comes to spring. I’ve finally come to an easy peace with this after so many years and find myself drawn to its faded beauty. Like the outside of this old cabin. She seems almost a stranger from this angle at first glance, an old woman in her muslin petticoat waiting for wardrobe and makeup. Perhaps that is why we create bits of spring inside. One of my granddaughters surprised me with this little custom-painted birdhouse the color of Easter dresses. “It’s for spring,” she says smiling, pulling it from behind her back. It fits perfectly in my Window to the World alongside my spotted rooster and the bright-potted plant from my neighbor.
“Happy Easter!” I said, as I hugged my neighbor. I had walked over last Friday morning in my pajamas and crocs when she said there were two hot cross buns waiting for us, warm from the oven.
“And this plant is for you,” she said. “I took a cutting from the one Jeff’s mom gave me.”
I always think of Mom at Easter. She made most all of our dresses, from the early Easter ones to the many high school Madrigal and prom formals. You don’t realize the immensity of this gift until you’ve sewn a few dresses yourself. There were four of us girls, one brother right in the middle. One spring when we were planning a trip to Spokane for the Lilac Festival, Mom made us matching dresses, and a matching shirt for brother Bill. After that trip, Dad said quietly to Mom, “You don’t need to sew for Bill. We can afford to buy his clothes.” Our Easter dresses were always different colored pastel fabrics—pale pink, green, aqua, lavender, coral, yellow, dotted Swiss, cotton prints, taffeta with organdy overlays—and full-skirted until we were teenagers. And always patent leather shoes and white lace-edged anklets. The family Easter pictures are a slideshow of fashion through the 50s and 60s. We stand shivering in the snow in many of them.
We were often at Stonecroft for Easter Sunday since we lived in Libby, less than two hours away. Here we are with Grandma Edna and Grandpa Gideon. Big sister Kathy and I are teenagers, the three “little kids” still little. Cute toddler cousin Mark jumped into the picture too. Home from church we would pose for pictures before walking into the cabin to the smells of ham in the electric roaster on the kitchen entry porch. The Hot Cross Buns were baked and crisscrossed with white icing, and the scalloped potatoes tucked in the oven. Grandma’s carrot-pineapple-jello salad waited in the icebox. Long tables were set with white cloths and an assortment of plates while we searched the grounds for Easter baskets and hidden eggs with the cousins. Bright snapshots, those girlhood Easter Sundays, in my memory bank.
But the memories that come nudging the most insistently these days are the ones when our house was full of our own kids and company on Sunday afternoons. Easter Sunday would include Mom and Dad, Uncle Allen’s family, nieces and nephews, and at least one other family from church. The menu would be a recreation of Grandma’s with variations—baked ham, cheesy potatoes, cherry jello salad, a square glass bowl of Grandma’s carrot-pineapple jello salad, deviled eggs, homemade yeast rolls. Local Fallbrook, California strawberries, picked ripe from the fields in fresh glazed pies or shortcake.
Yes, it was busy. I remember longing for a bit of time to myself back then, just a few moments where I might practice “ . . . the stilling of the soul within the activities of the mind and body” that Anne Morrow Lindbergh describes in her timeless Gift from the Sea. But honestly, I miss in a way I didn’t anticipate, those days of being necessary for the business and busyness of living.
Freedom so often means that one isn’t needed anywhere. ―Willa Cather
Mamas, you are in your fullest, most beautiful life right now. You, who think you are too round or too unstylish or that you might be missing out on life. You’re in the very middle of it all, the axis at the center of the fast-turning wheel, rings of family life centrifuging around you, held steady. Love it. Embrace it. Thank Him for it. I promise you that you will miss it one day. I’ve often said when I teach women, “It’s not true that you can’t have it all . . . all those desires of your heart. You can. You just can’t have them all at once.”
One cannot dance well unless one is completely in time with the music, not leaning back to the last step or pressing forward to the next one, but poised directly on the present step as it comes. ―Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Gift from the Sea
Keep dancing mamas . . . directly on each step as it comes. And I’ll try to do the same over here, not leaning back too often with longing, but in time with the music of now. I’m putting the cheesy potato dish in the oven to take next door to my brother’s for Easter dinner. Ina’s Applesauce Cake with Bourbon Raisins is cooling, waiting to be frosted. I think nephew Billy is making Grandma’s and Anna Lou’s rolls. His come the closest in both taste and texture to the ones in my memory. And I’m reminding myself that it’s always about embracing and letting go. Gratitude and relinquishment. Reminding myself that yes, it’s all a gift. I’m putting a shift over my muslin petticoat, and a bit of makeup . . . and walking next door with a full heart.
“I don’t need faith to know that if I take flour and butter and milk and seasonings and heat them in a double boiler, the mix will thicken and become white sauce. Faith is for that which lies on the other side of reason. Faith is what makes life bearable, with all its tragedies and ambiguities and sudden, startling joys. Surely it wasn’t reasonable for the Lord of the Universe to come and walk this earth with us and love us enough to die for us and then show us everlasting life? We will all grow old, and sooner or later we will die, like the old trees in the orchard. But we have been promised that this is not the end. We have been promised life.”—Madeleine L’Engle, Walking on Water—Reflections on Faith & Art
3 thoughts on “Easter sunday”
Baby Sister! So good to hear from you. I’ve been wondering how Rex’s recovery is proceeding. If he is anything like us, he will “bounce back” more like jello, than like a spring. Old age is an adventure!?
I remember some Easters at Stonecroft, especially when we were young enough to hunt eggs, that our feet slipped on the patchy snow while we were running from one place to another. I loved it that Grandma always hid the eggs outside. The old Model T was still one of her hiding places in those days.
I remember especially the Easter before Mary was born. Bill was in his cute Easter suit, and Mom was crying. I’m not sure why, probably pregnancy emotions. I think that was the same day that Daddy played his violin. The last (only) time I ever heard him.
It’s a bit chilly here, but the sun should come out soon. We’re still looking at a week or so of weather just a little too cold for me. But we have warm fires. And, I am looking at a a day or two of house cleaning. No fun! It rolls around too fast anymore.
I love you!
I love hearing your memories! They are probably more inclusive than mine since you were older, aware of a bigger picture. I do remember playing for days in the Model T and slipping in the snow hunting for eggs. Don’t we look grown up this year in those two-piece dresses! You even had a ladies’ hat!
Yes, your description of bouncing back sounds about right. The resilience just isn’t there. He has good days and does too much, then is too tired almost to walk to his chair with his dinner plate. We’re both tired. I’m inspired by your housecleaning regimen. We had a fun day with Brud and family on Easter. Love you!
Golden memories of the best Mom!