Sunday, April 9, 2023
It’s Easter. I had minimal idea it was coming, except that my mother mentioned what she was cooking.
Philosophical question of the day: does a holiday really happen if you aren’t cooking?
I spent a minute today thinking about Easter and unearthing the memories embedded in my brain. We don’t celebrate Easter these days, not even as the red headed stepchild of Christmas. That will probably offend somebody but I wrote it anyway. So I only have dusty memories of Easters past. But the funny thing is that once I took them out, they sure did shine.
Most prominently, egg decorating. My parents still do that with their grandson, and any of my brothers who still happen to be hanging around. I don’t remember the last time I colored an egg. Quite possibly I have never colored an egg after moving out of my parents’ house.
I do remember it was a production. I don’t know how many eggs my mother boiled but it had to be a lot because there were six of us. If memory serves (and it often doesn’t) I believe we each had six eggs. Even I can do the math on that one.
You also had to account for breakage. This was in pre-internet days where you couldn’t just look up “how to boil an egg without cracking it.” And even if you could look it up, the internet would be full of garbage that doesn’t work anyway, the same advice regurgitated on site after site with no actual concept of whether it made any sense at all.
Things I can tell you with certainty did not work: vinegar in the water. Baking soda in the water. Warming eggs to room temperature. Boiling slowly. Dropping them cold into boiling water.
Oddly enough, I have the most luck with that last one. When I make egg salad, I boil the water then drop the eggs in right from the refrigerator. It’s counterintuitive, you’d think they’d crack like mad. But they usually end up intact. Don’t ask me how.
Eggs crack, it’s what they do. So if you want three dozen hard boiled eggs, you make four.
And then you spend two weeks eating egg salad and deviled eggs and whatever the heck my mother did with that many eggs.
Inevitably the whites ended up stained from the dye, usually in marginally less appealing colors that did not help their cause.
But every Easter, it’s what we did, along with making cutout cookies.
The last time I talked about cookies, I said that my mother allowed us to eat three. I was summarily corrected because apparently she allowed us four. So I’m sure if she boiled some other number of eggs and we got more than six, I will find out about it soon enough.
Corrections will be issued as they arise.
You can probably color eggs by dipping them in a cup of dye and getting pink ones and blue ones and yellow ones. But what fun is that?
This wasn’t egg decorating, this was Art. We had crayons and markers and rubber bands for wrapping if you wanted to make designs. We had googly eyes and glue sticks and cotton balls for making fluffy tails if you were inspired to make something that required a fluffy tail. We had construction paper to make hats and mustaches if you were in that sort of mood.
If there are three things that immortalize Easter in my memory it’s cutout cookies, egg decorating, and these die-cut cardboard cutouts of Easter characters taped to every kitchen cabinet. If you were a child of the 70s then you know exactly what I mean.
On Easter Day, there was the basket hunt.
The Easter Bunny would work very hard putting baskets together with toys and treats, then hide them in obscure places around the house for us to find.
The dryer. The bathtub. A closet behind the winter coats. Once, strung up from a curtain rod and hidden by the curtain.
You might not think it would be so hard to find a basket-sized basket in a house where fourfivesix were hiding, but clearly you don’t know the Easter Bunny.
I was always half excited, half terrified that I’d never find my basket and would be left wandering the house like the last kid picked for the kickball team.
The Easter Bunny was pretty smart, too. He put our names in little print on the baskets so we would know which were ours. The only rule was that if you found a basket that belonged to someone else, you quietly left it there and did not tell the person where it was.
Do you know what I had for dinner last night?
Do you know why I just walked into this closet?
Nope. Me either.
But I do remember one Easter when I couldn’t have been more than seven, I had found my Easter basket and everything in it was a thrilling delight. But I was sad. Because my parents had not gotten me an Easter gift. I thought they had forgotten me.
But that evening, my mother beckoned me to the closet and pulled out a brand new coloring book and said she had forgotten to give it to me.
Seems she didn’t know why she had gone into the closet, either.
I was elated, my faith in my parents’ love restored.
Those are my primary Easter memories. It’s been a long time since I celebrated it, but it’s always been about ricotta cake and Easter bread, and themed dinnerware and the one holiday a year that I got dressed up for church.
We didn’t really get dressed for Christmas church. Maybe because it was the dead of winter and the main point was to avoid freezing to death.
But on Easter we donned our bonnets.
I specifically remember one Easter when we were at my grandparents’ house in the Bronx. And I was wearing this brightly floral dress and patent leather shoes. I’m fairly certain the dress was polyester.
I remember this because it was about 400 degrees that Easter and we were standing out on the porch taking pictures and everything was dripping sweat and sticking in an itchy, scratchy bunch.
These are the things my brain retains.
That, and the fact that the story of Peter Cottontail used to terrify me. I mean, that farmer! And his pitchfork! To this day I can’t drink chamomile tea.
I may not decorate eggs anymore but I did buy myself a couple of Cadbury eggs recently. They’re smaller than I remember them but still delicious. I didn’t cook for Easter but my mother cooked enough for both of us to feed a small island.
My nephew got to dye most of the three dozen eggs himself since he is the only kid in the family now. And I know a few of my other family members participated.
So I’m counting this holiday as a great success, with the tiniest twinge of gratitude that I’m not the one who has to eat brown-green eggs for the next two weeks.
Photo: a few eggs dyed by my brother David this year.