Sunday, April 16, 2006

Praise the Lord (and Pass the Ham)

Easter Sunday. Memories of fly-collared pinstripe suits in shades of creme. Painful, shiny Buster Brown shoes that were outgrown by next year. Filled-to-the-aisles churches. Long masses in foreign languages. Pastel eggs, chocolate bunnies with those funky hard-candy-cataract eyes, black licorice jelly beans. Plastic celophane grass in wicker baskets. Mary Sue Easter Eggs ("Get the treat that is sunny for your Easter bunny. The creamiest candy that's made. Mary Sue Easter Eggs. Mary Sue Easter Eggs. Brighten your Easter parade." Charm City brethren and sistren: you know what I'm talking about.). And Easter dinner.

I know that this is the highest of holy holies for ye ole practicing Cath-o-lics out there. After all, without Easter, you got nothin'. Just a hairy guy with a beard and a velvet tongue. That Sunday back in 33 changed following Jesus from a political statement to a faith. It's important. I get that. But, I have to tell you (keeping in mind that I am a former follower of the faith) that back in the day, Easter was all about the ham. And the keilbasa and sauerkraut. And the stuffed shells. And the Easter pie (which isn't really a pie in the sense of some fruit in a plate covered with pastry; it's more like a stromboli full of eggs and pepperoni and cheese--oh, Jesus (sorry), it's good).

No surprise, for some, I guess. I am a mangione from way back, so the meal is the deal for me. Always has been, always will be. Not being geographically close to ma familia anymore, the Monkey and I don't do anything on Easter, really. Today, Monkey travelled back from Nebraska; I went birding, graded some papers, watched a baseball game. She currently snoozes away on the sofa, Ripken is rolling around on the floor. That's Easter. But, I do miss the dinner.

The food, of course, is a draw. Always wonderful, always bountiful. It's been different, I'm sure, since we lost Tess (my grandmother), but that was in '98, and I left town soon after, so I really don't know. Everybody seems to do their own thing now. My parents are going to my brother's in-law's house. I don't know what my aunt is doing, or my cousins. It's probably nothing like it used to be.

Yet, what I really miss is the feeling. Of Spring having arrived. Of pleasant, sunny Sundays, sitting around a table set for twenty and celebrating. Maybe we officially celebrated the resurrection of the son of God, but I don't think that was ever in my heart. I was celebrating the people I loved and the great fortune I had to be a part of their lives.

I'd like to think that everybody feels that way about their family, but I know they don't. Some people don't get along with their parents or sisters or cousins. Some people don't have the opportunity to enjoy their families. Separation, life events, conflicts, the passage of time all make it different for everybody. Not everyone has the same relationships that I am lucky to have.

So, I guess I'm feeling a bit melancholy this high Sunday. I miss my kin. I am no longer in the fold, in more ways than one.


Anonymous said...

Ah Reda, a truly reflective and thoughtful post. Easter conjures up the mangione, the fashionista, and the relatedness in me. Let's address each one together, shall we?

Food. Past Easters have, sadly, been largely unexciting to me because I really haven't liked the Easter food that was traditional in my family (sorry, Mom! I know you're not reading this blog, but somehow you always seem to know these things anyway). The exception being my love of chocolate (mmm, Cadbury eggs - never heard of MS Easter Eggs though - are they like Berger cookies?). I have never liked ham. Also, Easter was never quite warm enough for me to savor my mom's potato salad or other sweet and light foods that are delicious in the warmer summer weather.

And that provides a good segway to the fashionista realm. Namely, just as some Easter foods don't seem appropriate for the weather and season, wow it is that ever true of the so-called Easter "styles". While it may surprise some that I am so stringent about a few particular fashion musts (and then as long as those are met, go wild and dress to express how ever you want), at Easter in particular I have an urge to scream at people things like, "Not only are white shoes a bad idea in general, there is to be *no* wearing of white shoes/sandals before Memorial Day!" Also, people please don't force a) the pastels (which I personally resent because that particular pallete does not jive with my coloring) and b) the light fabrics and short sleeves or lack of sleeves! It's kind of like at Halloween if it's cold and you have to wear a coat over your costume: "Wear something seasonally and temperaturely appropriate! I get cold just looking at you!"

We can tie the mangione and fashionista points together thusly: I have too many associations with and, sadly, personal childhood and adolescent experiences of, chilly Easters marked by those wearing inappropriate seasonal attire, thereby causing me to wanting more substantial comfort foods (of which there are none besides chocolate) to warm me up at Easter!

Relatedness. I too feel very blessed to have good relationships with my family in general, and it is hard not to be with them during holidays. Easter is not as big a gathering-together time for my family as on other holidays, but I did miss being with them. And yes, it can be hard when family traditions and rituals change as we age and when family members die.

However, in each of these realms there can be lots of opportunity for growth and creativity. For instance, I had the most amazing connecting retreat with my dear friends over this weekend. What a spiritual and meaningful way to celebrate Easter. Also, there were no bad shoes, too-eager spring fabrics, or chilliness caused by inappropriate holiday dress for me. Finally, yesterday P and I enjoyed some *amazing* foods that I hope to make a part of our Easter tradition: an egg and potato dish that was divine; warm bread, steamed kale and carrots, and beans cooked in a flavorful red sauce! It was the most satisfying Easter meal ever.

May all your Easters be creative in their foods, fashion, and relatedness!


ATR said...

"Satisfying" and "Easter" and "meal", yet, I see no "ham"? C'est impossible!


Anonymous said...

Ham it up, fuzzball!


Anonymous said...

Wow...I'm taking in all the reflectiveness, Monk! Truly beautiful and wish I hadn't slept through your thoughtfulness.
Much love,

PS--Anon AMVB, also thoughtful reflections and I was fortunate enough to hear (and share--white shoes, people??!!) some of them directly with you. Much love to you, too.