It is 1 a.m. here in Southern California. It has been Easter for one hour. And I have been crying for a little less than that. True, I did stay up too late, and true, I do have that most awful of female conditions – the period – and true, I have been emotionally strung out in other ways recently. But, still, I am crying. Because it is Easter, and that makes me feel incredibly lonely.
As I enjoy these perfect 75 degree and gently windy days I find myself constantly wondering what the weather is like in Minnesota. I see my children running outside in their bare feet and imagine them in heavy boots and hats. I flinch as the cars flip by me and zig zag on the ten lane highways and I begin to wish for the slow crawls of northerners on a snow day. And don’t get me wrong, I am not complaining about my life in God’s little perfect bubble of ocean breeze and hiking trails. It’s just that, I feel so far from home. The time has come for me to set down roots for my own little family, to be the mom that guides the traditions and establishes patterns for my kids to miss when they are older. And I feel wholly unprepared for that.
Easter is awesome. And I didn’t realize I felt that way until it changed for me. Perhaps gathering a basket of eggs is somehow related to a former pagan ritual. And maybe chocolate bunnies are just a way for Hallmark to get me to spend more money. But who the freak cares? A basket of colorful plastic brings me back to that feeling of security when, what seemed like countless family members, would surround me. And eating the waxy ear off a chocolate bunny brings me back to my grandmother handing one out to each of us grand kids.
It was on an Easter that my great-grandmother wore my huge purple monster slippers cause her feet were cold. And then she shuffled outside while the rest of us cheered like she had saved the world and we took a big family picture right then. With the purple, hairy slippers front and center. And everyone was smiling so big because a 90 year-old woman looked ridiculous in those slippers. And I wasn’t particularly close to her, but that doesn’t matter, because she is part of my family, and she is a permanent part of Easter to me now. I actually remember all of us cousins discussing the weird wrinkly feeling of her cheek when we gave her the obligatory kiss. I hope she never caught on to us.
In my family. You would walk in the front door of some relative’s house. then whoever was first to see you would yell “The Downings are here!” and from the other room you would here “Hey!” and “Hello Downings!” and “Finally we can eat!” and “What took you so long?” And there would be some bickering between my mom and dad about whose fault it was we were late, and then we would all settle in and the day would fly by with grandma trying to feed us all like we were chickens in need of fattening before she could cook us.
Of course, there was the Easter Egg Decorating Competition. This held the most weight out of any other competition in my family. The winner received a perfect, smooth egg carved out of marble by my grandfather. To be prominently displayed on its own sacred handmade wooden pedestal for the rest of the year. Whoever won the Egg Decorating Contest was revered as some sort of god for the rest of the year. This was the big papoola people.
And then there would be an Easter Egg hunt on my grandparents huge lawn. And there was one golden egg with a five dollar bill in it and, oh boy, we would hunt. It got intense. I distinctly remember people tackling each other one year. It wasn’t a real holiday until at least two kids were in an ace bandage and the landscaping had been ruined. And that went for every gathering. I seem to remember my cousin Sam usually being the injured one. And I know Sophie was like a rubber band and could be hit by a wrecking ball and laugh about it. And I remember the impression that my grandpa thought we were all a bunch of gooses who needed some time in the American Military.
I just wish I could go back to who I was in those times and appreciate them more. I didn’t see how lucky I was to be that person in that moment. And I guess that’s life, especially the adolescence part. You’re too busy being dramatic about everything to see that what you have now is good and it won’t last forever.
I got two Easter pictures this weekend. One showed the Egg Decorating Contest submission of my sister and her daughters. The other showed the smashed up mini-van of my sister and her sons. Both made me cry. I love my life in California and I know I am blessed. But I miss my family. I miss having to converse on the impossible task of giving an egg curly brown hair, and then working hours on building a magical department of mysteries as a set for that egg. And I hate that when I hear my nephews were in a car accident I don’t get to squeeze them and thank God all bones are still in place.
I just miss my family. And that is the simplest way to put it.
Thank the Lord for Winnie the Pooh, who said the things we all feel. “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.” (You gotta love that bear.)
And so while I miss my family so much, and I miss loud holidays with yelling and crying and laughing and begging grandma to put the food away, I am going to try really hard not to make the same mistake twice. I have learned my lesson. And I have to calm down enough to realize that who I am right now, with what I have in this moment, is not going to last forever. Soon my kids will not want to search for eggs in the backyard, and they will be too old to want a picture with the Easter bunny, and one gummi bear in a plastic egg is gonna start to look cheap. So I will take this Easter that I can get.
And I will think of my family back home. And I will squeeze the one I have here, in this strange magical land where the days are all perfectly the same.
And I am gonna cry. But I am also gonna smile. Because it’s Easter. And that is just how it has always been.