Floral dresses. Black patent leather shoes. Hard-boiled eggs dyed blue, green, and yellow. Brightly-colored baskets filled with shredded cellophane grass and chocolate bunnies. These are the things of Easters Past.
Growing up, Easter always meant a new dress and new shoes. Mom would take us girls to church, while my dad stayed home and hid the eggs we had dyed the day before. We would come home, have an Easter egg hunt (after a few years we knew where all the hiding places were), then waited for the rest of the family to come over. Mom prepared a big dinner that included ham, potato salad, deviled eggs, and hot cross buns that we would sit down to enjoy mid-day. The room would fill with the smells of good food and the joyful sound of conversation and laughter.
This year, Easter is quickly approaching, and if I had my way, it would pass by without a sound. The whole month of April could vanish from the calendar and I would breathe a sigh of relief.
I guess I don't deal well with change.
Change has been the underlying theme of my life lately, which feels strange and uncomfortable for a girl who grew up in a family steeped in tradition. There wasn't a holiday that I didn't know where I would be, what time I'd be there, what I would be doing, and what I would be eating. And I liked it that way. When I met my husband, I was confounded by the fact that his family seemed to always be making last minute plans if they made plans at all. Don't they have any sense of tradition? I wondered. Now I wonder if maybe they didn't have it right after all.
Because now everything has changed.
Last year, I didn't make it home for Easter. (Funny how, after all these years, I still refer to the place where I grew up as "home.") I awoke Easter morning with a scratchy throat and worried that I might be coming down with a cold. (It turned out to only be allergies.) My dad was turning 87 that day and had been living with emphysema for 13 years. We had almost lost him two years before after he caught a cold right after Thanksgiving. I just couldn't take any chances. With a heavy heart, I called my parents and told them we weren't going to make it. My dad was disappointed but understood. I didn't know at the time that it would be my last chance to spend Easter with my dad. Just three months later he was gone.
So, of course, Easter will not be the same this year. It will never be the same again.
I called my mom the other day and told her I wasn't sure we were going to spend Easter with the family this year. Not only will my father not be there, but it won't even be at my childhood home. My brother and his wife are hosting this year, which is really nice, but it's not the same. They're barbequing hamburgers and hot dogs, so there won't even be ham. I know it's completely silly, but it all seems more than I can bear. It's bad enough that Dad won't be sitting at the head of the table, but now we won't even be at the table, enjoying the foods he loved, enjoying the tradition he was a part of for all my life. Following the traditions of my childhood offers me comfort and connects me to the past and the people I loved but who are no longer with us. I don't want to lose that connection.
My mom reminded me that being with family was the truly important aspect of the holiday. If she could have it her way, she would once again be fixing that big meal and my dad would be there with her. But of course that's not possible.
After I got off the phone, I emailed my sister-in-law and told her that we would be there.
I will still dye Easter eggs with my boys, and we will have an Easter egg hunt before we drive the 2 1/2 hours to go back home, where the air is bound to be filled with the smell of good food and the joyful sound of conversation and laughter. Somewhere in my closet there's a grown-up version of black patent leather shoes. Maybe I'll go buy a floral dress to go with them.
Maybe everything hasn't changed after all.