Easter was a time of formal display of dress and behavior, as well as supervised fun and games. We kids had mixed reactions.
Mom wouldn’t give us her spoons to use for egg races because they were our grandfather’s silver and we were sure to lose them. We had to get down on our knees and clasp our hands behind our backs and shove the egg forward with our noses, not quite as tame as the races at Dockton after Easter Sunday Mass. There, we had spoons and ran as fast as we could with the egg in the spoon, trying not to drop it.
Easter was like the start of the school year in that we got new clothes for the holiday and were told to change them right after Mass. It was tradition for us to stop for brunch at the homestead at Portage, property that had been in our Family since our great-grandfather bought it in 1892. The picnic table was covered with a split shake roof, where you could see light coming through the spaces between the shakes but no rain. Papa Jim, our grandfather wore a full white apron and a tall chef’s hat as he marshaled the eggs and bacon on a half-inch steel plate on the outdoor barbecue that had a seven foot chimney. He would send one of us kids to the kitchen to tell Grandma Ada that he was running out of pancake dough as she had 22 grandchildren and we ate a whole lot.
Easter usually dawned fair and bright, so nobody really planned for rain. We thought about umbrellas in the morning, but inevitably the forces of nature mysteriously combined to produce intense showers of hail or rain or both. At the first sign of dark clouds, the little ones were swept up by Moms as if they were loose sheets ready to be swept away by a maelstrom. We had goofy Easter egg things, like one with a two-bit piece, rubber banded to it. Also, “special eggs” could be redeemed for chocolate, or a silver coin…sometimes real “grass” was used instead of that fake stuff. As we got older, our parents hid the eggs higher and in more devious places, like in the crooks of trees… And the eggs not found…were found later and hurled at various family members! Sister Molly screamed when Mike threw an old one at her and the egg went “poof” when it hit, making her dress smell to “high heaven.” Weeks after Easter we still found them.
We can never forget the ‘home’ made treats that were done…crispy Almond Roca…maybe rice pudding and homemade chocolate figures…And after Easter we had “deviled” eggs….sort of a contradiction in religious terms…but we never noticed.
Mom had a cast iron Easter lamb lying on its side that appeared to be chewing its “cud.” It came apart so Mom could fill one half with cake dough, replace the other half and bake in the oven. When the lamb cake was done she pulled the halves apart very carefully because the neck was very weak and she stuck toothpicks in the lamb to help hold its head up. The cake had thick white frosting that she liberally sprinkled with shredded coconut to make it look like lamb’s wool…little fingers always reaching for a sample when nobody was looking…as Mom kept a table knife and a severe look of tolerant disapproval as she whacked the back of Mike’s hand with the flat side of the tableknife.
On Easter Sunday we had to wear little ties. We were expected to have scrubbed our faces, have clean hands and no dirt under our fingernails. We were required to be nice to each other except when the rule failed when our parents weren’t looking. Girl’s Easter shoes…’mary janes’…that were shiny patent leather, which the girls viciously guarded against any kind of scuffing, including any kicking under the table…we guys just had brogans which we polished up by filling the cracks with melted black crayons which we had stolen from our sisters and refused to own up to taking them.
We were so relieved when we got out of those stupid ties and released from temporary Easter bondage of dignity, decorum and good behavior.