In the northeastern United States we are still awaiting the first leaves on the trees and the trees and bushes to flower. Planting season is weeks away and the visual and aromatic signs of spring are not yet evident. This is the time of year this Philadelphia girl turned Mainer relearns the lessons of patience as we sit and wait for nature to come alive again. One location in which spring is in full bloom is the floral department at the grocery store.
As I went through the door yesterday to pick up the last few items for Easter dinner I was immediately consumed by the smell of lilies. I always associate the smell of lilies with Easter. I used to teach a graduate level course for teachers on designing and delivering instruction for brain-based learning. Scent is the strongest of all senses in producing imprints on the brain leading to retained memory. Years of Easter memories came flooding back from childhood as I stood next to the heads of lettuce and clementines and was taken away, not by calgon, but rather by the scent of lilies. I looked next to the lilies at the tulips and other spring flowers. My eyes followed to a display I don’t remember seeing for years and years…small square boxes containing an orchid corsage. Wow!! That sight brought a tsunami of memories! An orchid corsage, growing up, was always a part of my Easter tradition.
Easter was a benchmark. It was an annual “graduation” of sorts leading to first perfumes, first lipsticks, first kitten heels. Easter Sunday required a complete new outfit for church. There was to be a new suit or dress with a coordinating hat. If Easter fell too early in the year a coat was required to go with the dress. Just before the big day a package would arrive from Gimbel Brothers from my Great-Aunt Margaret which would contain everything that went under the dress ~ it was time for new underwear and slips. I got my first pair of stockings for Easter Sunday which meant Aunt Margaret would have to throw a garter belt in that box with the undies.
Shoes were always an issue since Mom was a stickler for fashion rules. I knew these would be my only dress shoes for quite a while. Some years I wanted white patent leather rather than the usual black… but Easter was before Memorial Day… a no-no. The purse would match the shoes and the hat was always a struggle. I’ve never liked hats, they squashed and messed up my hair forcing me to either leave it on all day or take it off and look like squirrels had been nesting on my head… yet, a lady always wears a hat to church. The only year I actually looked forward to wearing my hat was the year I had picked a Jackie Kennedy pillbox number to go with my suit. I even had the Jackie voice down to make it a complete package. And… bless me, I always had my white gloves for Easter Sunday. Soon after Easter, I would manage to lose ONE somewhere and couldn’t wear gloves until next Easter. Funny how that happens!
Before that glove was lost and my new shiny shoes scuffed, Easter Sunday was photo day. Pictures in our family were always taken on the front step walking out of the front door of the house. We have DVD’s going back to the era of super 8 Kodak movies of the front door opening and people walking out of the door, pausing, then walking to the car, starting the engine and waving as they pulled out of the driveway. The other standard spot was by the lamp post in the front yard. It was the only spot where daffodils were planted. I guess that means I spent my Easter Sundays as a child all decked out tiptoeing through the daffodils.
In addition to the religious celebration of Easter, it was a family celebration. The Easter basket contained only Zitners (of Philadelphia) cocoanut cream eggs. I still have them mailed to me in Maine every year! The dying of the Easter eggs has always been a big deal. Mine is a family of creative people. It would be blasphemous to either just dye eggs a solid color and call it a day, or to repeat a method of decoration for more than one year…new year, new creative challenge.
As my brother and his family moved to MD in the DC suburbs, we began to take my youngest nieces to the Easter Egg Roll at the White House on Easter Monday . Can you believe that some adults actually taught children to lie and say they had not received their souvenir wooden Presidential egg so they could have one of their own (being way above the cut-off age for receiving the souvenir children’s eggs)? As my nieces got too old to participate we considered renting children to take to the Easter Egg Roll to continue the set of eggs. I fortunately found out you can purchase the souvenir eggs and support the National Park Service all at the same time. I was so excited that when I came back from sniffing the lilies at the grocery store yesterday I found that the Easter Bunny had come to my house to deliver my 2012 set of eggs. Note the fuchsia egg front and center… it is the first White House pet to have its own egg. Ta-da… the Bo Obama egg which he signed on the back and left a paw print (such a talented puppy!).
May all of you reading this post have a blessed Easter filled with your own traditions and benchmarks!