Spring is here -- a little too early perhaps -- but here none-the-less. On this early Easter morning, I'm strolling down memory lane...
When I was a child my mother believed Easter called for the best attire possible. She made new grass green matching lined wool Easter suits for my sister and I. My sister and I are four years apart -- a world of age to a child, an instant in time to an adult. I was thrilled to be dressed like my big sister! For her, it was probably not such a thrill to have her dopy little sister looking like the other half of a pair of spring green book ends. Those suites were lovely -- little Chanell-esque fitted numbers (a little pleating in the skirt to make them more girly than Jackie O). We had little purses and hats with little flowers on the brim -- to match -- and white patent-leather mary-jane shoes over white socks. We felt absolutely glamorous in our finery. My brother standing next to us in his suit, his blond hair in a flat top, a bow tie below his grinning face.
Easter was often spent at the home of my maternal grandparents -- Czechoslovakian by birth -- Slovak to be specific. They came to the United States -- bringing their Holiday traditions to the new world along with their few possessions. Settling in a small coal-mining community in Eastern Ohio, they raised a large family and tried to make every Holiday special -- steeped in their European traditions and a bit of mystery -- at least to my young eyes.
At the top of this literal mountain of food were dozens of hot-crossed buns and several beautiful dense 12-inch round loves of egg-rich Easter bread, also speckled with raisins. That golden colored bread made the most wonderful left over ham sandwiches and breakfast toast -- especially when slathered with dripping warm butter! One loaf always had a braided cross on top, the other encircled with a braided crown. The crown was supposed to represent the crown of Christ but I thought it was just like the braided crown of beautiful soft grey hair that encircled my grandmother's head.
One of my uncles would lug this hefty basket into a waiting car and it was driven to the church to be blessed for the Easter meal. Then home it came and the women of the house went into high gear as they prepared for the next day's feast. In my family, the women did the cooking but the men did the clean up. There are wonderful photos of my father and all my uncles -- jackets off, in their baggy Sunday best suit pants, stiff white shirt sleeves rolled up, ties tucked into the front of their shirts, towels tucked around their waists -- standing at the sink, another towel in hand -- doing the dishes. They all seemed to be having a great time. A good time undoubtedly fueled by several glasses of dinner wine.
The night before Easter, we kids would play outside until dark, while our parents dressed to go out on the town. The brothers and sisters, spouses in tow, enjoyed getting together as couples and it was fascinating to see our plain-old parents transform themselves into beautifully coiffed, dapper strangers as the women's high heels clicked through the house, the men adjusting their ties in the mirror by the front door as they headed out to the waiting cars and drove away, the mixed scents of perfumes and after shaves wafting through the air in their wake.
My absolute favorite anticipation of Easter (I was one of the youngest children in this large extended family) was the lamb-shaped cake my Aunt Betty (my God Mother) always brought to the feast. She had no daughters of her own and made me feel like she'd made that cake just for me. Always a yellow cake, it was baked in a two part mold and glued together with icing, covered with more fluffy white icing, and pressed all over with shredded, sweetened coconut wool. It always had a black jelly bean nose and blue jelly-bean eyes. Those blue eyes beckoned relentlessly -- en tolling my often grubby little fingers to swipe a bit of icing. I always obliged the lamb.
I think I'll call my God Mother today! Happy Easter! Happy Spring!