Sunday, April 4, 2010

My Childhood Easters

When I was a child, before my father died, Easter meant a new outfit, complete with shiny patent letter shoes (eventually with heels, when became a teenager), purse, and hat; not just for me, but for my mother and all six of us children. The Saturday before was spent pressing and curling hair, ironing, cooking, cleaning, and anything else in preparation for celebrating the rising of Jesus and the forgiveness of our sins. My family was not into sunrise services, but they were into southern Baptist stay-at-church-nearly-all-day-long type Easters. So, there was food at church and food at home.

My uncle Arthur Eato, who was career Air Force and lived in Texas, would only visit us at Easter time. He never brought his family (the rumors about his wife ran wild), but would just come to see his brother’s family. One Easter, I woke up early and wanted to dye Easter eggs (when I was very little, the eggs would be hidden around our property and we would have our very own Easter Egg hunt). Uncle Arthur came down the stairs in his dress uniform. Just the two of us spent a quiet (which was rare in my family’s house) morning dyeing eggs. It breaks my heart that my uncle died alone, homeless and destitute in his car; but my image is of a black man, more than six foot tall, who was happy dyeing eggs with his little niece.

Norman Eato, my father, was a gardener and every Easter gave my mother a beautiful white lily plant. Daddy died just before my senior year of high school, but I just knew he would want to make sure my mother continued to get her lily. I saved my money and made sure it would be the first thing she saw on Easter morning. I was so proud when my mother came into the dining room and saw the lily in the middle of the table. “Where did that come from?” she yelled. Her face was twisted and nasty. She started screaming the same question, over and over. It got worse when I said the unforgiveable words, “It’s from Daddy.” The screaming and yelling got worse, the lily was thrown out, and I was never forgiven. Who knew you could commit an unforgiveable sin on the day the Lord had risen?

I never liked chocolate (don’t get Freudian on me here), so Daddy always made sure I had a white chocolate bunny in my Easter basket. I always wanted one that was solid, but I’m sure back then they were just too expensive. And I loved the flowery, sappy Hallmark cards that circulated around the house. Now, I settle for Cadbury eggs.

There is a picture in my one surviving sister’s house of me and my sisters dressed in our Easter finery. I love that picture. It was taken by Daddy whose avocation was photography. It was probably taken about fifty years ago. That’s about all that is left for me about Easter.

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