Easter in Homer: “Isn’t that how we all should feel?”
This is a holy week for many. I like the years when Passover and Easter fall on the same week. For whatever reasons we gather together with family or our friends — who are the family we choose.
I thought it was a good time to resurrect one of my favorite Easter stories.
I grew up with Easters. The full-meal deals. Flowered hats and new dresses; I remember a particular gray gingham with lace. It was a bit “Little House On The Prairie” but I kind of liked that. The Little House On The Muskeg was where I lived. Easter basket grass is useless in any other capacity than fluff around chocolate eggs and the marshmallow chicks covered in colored sugar. (BTW, those make for interesting s’mores.)
I don’t remember the first time I heard the story of Easter. Truly. I just seemed to always know the violent details too well after having the story explained in such great detail. I wasn’t raised with a television and the graphic nature of the crucifixion was always shocking. To be fair to myself, I think it is a good thing I was horrified to the bone by the story. Apparently it is genetic.
My daughter was 3, almost 4, when we were visiting my folks in Homer. I didn’t think much about going to Easter Sunday service with Mom and Pop. I’d grown up with sunrise service on the Spit, breakfast in the church basement with the congregation and service. It was always a really big deal because the men of the church made breakfast for all of us. There were pots of lilies in the sanctuary and people with allergies noticed them first.
During the service I sat with my folks and sang the hymns and knew the steps of service. Years of ritual are so easy to call back. It felt like home.
My daughter was in Sunday school downstairs. We’d bought the appropriate sherbet colored dress and hat, she’d had an Easter basket when she woke up — brought by the Easter Santa — a giant bunny.
As the pastor spoke my thoughts wandered. I wondered why what was so regimented and habituated from my childhood seemed less important now. The meaning had changed for me. Why was it a bunny delivering baskets of eggs instead of a chicken? You know that sort of stream of thought where it would take crashing cymbals or your own child screaming to break in? It was like that.
I heard something.
“Mommmm!” Was it her? I turned my head toward the double doors closed at the back to the auditorium.
Seconds later the doors were parted like the Red Sea when my daughter threw herself through them. She was sobbing — that kind of shaking crying, deep gasps between words.
Wild eyed, she was looking for me in the Easter Sunday crowded church.
I stood up.
She came up the aisle as the pastor went silent.
Arms in the air, the wettest tears falling, she said, “Mom, they killed Jesus!”
I’d taught her the song “Jesus loves me” and I’d just never got around to the horrific story of sacrifice. You know, because she was a child. It was a surprise to her.
“They killed him! Mom, they killed him!” As far as she knew, I didn’t know.
I made my way down the pew row and to the aisle.
She ran to me and I picked her sobbing body up in my arms.
As I walked out of the church I heard the pastor say, “Isn’t that how we all should feel?”
Happy Passover. Happy Sunday. Happy Easter.