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First published in spring of 2014
The Cinnamon Girl asked me when we were on our evening walk yesterday – Good Friday – what my childhood memories of Easter are. This was in the context of us discussing whether or not the Easter Bunny would visit HJ, jr, Stretch and Sous Chef. They are all “too old” for the Easter Bunny to come, but The Cinnamon Girl and I realized that whether the kids are too old for the Easter Bunny is immaterial. We are not too old and we are not ready to give up that tradition before we have to do so. The Easter Bunny will track us down Sunday morning as he has done for years.
As to my favorite memories – Though many of them revolve around my father’s life as a permanent deacon in the Roman Catholic Church, I am completely taken with the recollection of the fact that the Easter Bunny would always leave my sisters and I one, Christmas-like gift in our baskets – a toy or a book (I have, for some reason, great affinity for the illustrated Lord of the Rings story book which went along with the Ralph Bakshi’s arresting (to me) animated film – see my favorite song from it HERE) – along with amazing jelly beans, chocolate rabbits and cream filled candy eggs from Russell Stouffer’s candy. Funny, the Easter Bunny now leaves my kids almost exactly the same thing – amazing how that works.
Holy Thursday often brought with it a Seder Supper. This was the early to mid 1980s and our parish, built in the mid 1970s, did not have pews. It had plastic chairs which made configurations of the worship space relatively easy. The Seder reconfiguration made the place look like a dining hall with plastic chairs pushed up to folding tables. During the Seder, the clerics of the parish – including my dad – sat at a “head table” on the raised dais where the altar of the church was situated normally. We would read the parts of the Seder Supper aloud, eating the food – the lamb and hard-boiled eggs and bitter herbs (parsley dipped in salt water) – as the tables all around the church followed suit.
The Seder Supper I most remember was the one wherein I decided I really, really liked the bitter herbs and took a massive portion of them onto my plate. I think I did it just to make my older sister laugh. For some reason, I felt pressure to eat all that I had taken, be it the star power of sitting at the head table or an admonition of my parents I don’t remember, and I knew that I would never be able to choke down all the parsley I’d piled, Roy Neary-like, into a mountain in front of me. Subtly and oh, so cooly, I shifted the Mount Bitter Herbs into the pockets of my brand new sports coat.
They weren’t discovered until the next time I wore the thing. Months later. I recall my mother being thrilled.
My mother, sisters and I spent many a Holy Saturday night at Easter Vigil’s, listening to the readings – the many, many readings – while waiting to hear my father read the Gospel. As he was an Associate Pastor at our parish, he seemed – at least to me, his hero-worshiping son – to out rank the other deacons at the parish and to get to be the “main” deacon (if there is such a thing) at major celebrations. But, after Dad was done with the Gospel, the long service seemed only to get longer and, by its conclusion, my sisters and I had usually drawn the ire of my mother for conducting miniature sword fights with the tapers we’d normally be given before the start of mass.
And that was when we were kids. When we were adults and attended an Easter Vigil or two, I clearly remember one of my brothers-in-law, Looks Like Dean Cain, craving his taper into a giant tooth and pretending to spit it out of his mouth repeatedly at the most inappropriate times of the liturgy.
Without a doubt, my favorite Easter Vigil was the one when The Cinnamon Girl came into the Roman Catholic Church and I got to serve as her sponsor. Beautiful, radiant and stunning, she looked like an angel to me and to the congregation as she was confirmed and had her First Communion. My parents, her mother and brother, our children, my sisters and their families, The Magister and his wife and kids were all on hand as The Cinnamon Girl made these sacraments.
Whether or not The Cinnamon Girl and I have always made it to church every Sunday since (spoiler alert – we haven’t) and whether I’ve always felt as close to Christ as I did in that moment, I can say that, this Easter, as I think about the resurrection and the mystery, I know I don’t have all the answers. I don’t even have all the questions.
I do have these memories – many of them involving my father – and I remember what The Mater has been telling me since my dad died. She’s said, time-and-again, Dad’s not worried about anything now. He has all the answers.
I shouldn’t be surprised. On this Easter, I remember that my Dad always had all the answers.
Even if many of those answers were not quite right… That was part of his charm.