Saturday, April 07, 2007

easter

Easter was always one of my favorite holidays, right after Christmas, but this has nothing to do with Jesus. Don't get me wrong, I'm sure Jesus was a pretty cool guy and all, but he just didn't figure much in my family's worldview. Case in point: when Nathan was, oh, about five years old, we got up on Christmas morning, opened all our presents, gorged on candy canes and hot chocolate and other goodies, and finally, satiated, Nathan turned to the rest of us and said in his small lispy child's voice, "Isn't today s'posed to be somebody's birthday?" To give my father credit, he pulled out the family Bible right then and there (yes, we did have a Bible in the house, despite our heathen ways) and read us the nativity story. Easter was about meticulously dyeing eggs, often with standard CVS-bought kits, but sometimes, and most beautifully, boiled in onion skins wrapped tight in lumpy little packages of cheese cloth and rubber bands. Also it was about eating a large ham, and afterwards indulging in delicious mom-made angel food cake with fresh strawberries and homemade whipped cream.

We moved from Oakland, California to the Bronx in August of 1981, to a little two-bedroom apartment on Johnston Avenue. Our neighbors in this apartment building happened to have two sons, and the four of them quickly befriended the four of us. Starting in the spring of 1982, we spent every single Easter with the Obligado family. The parents would shut us inside and "make" us watch TV while they hid chocolate eggs and wee little bunnies. In the early years this massive candy hunt took place in the park across the street from our building, and we had to keep an eye out for broken beer bottles and used condoms, but we were thrilled anyway. Two years later we moved up to Mohegan Lake, and the Obligados would drive up to our place for the day, and we got to hunt for all those bright foil-wrapped goodies (by which of course I mean chocolates and not condoms) in the safety of our own yard, in amongst the daffodils and tulips and mountain laurel. Eventually the Obligados moved up to Mohegan Lake too, and that just made everything easier.

We went to the Obligados' house for the last Easter that my family was in New York, that April of 1994. They had always come to our house before, but that first Easter after my father died, I think the adults must have decided we needed to break with tradition a bit. And Easter after that wasn't so much fun anymore. In college, and for a few years after, I spent the holiday by myself, often wandering the city with my walkman, watching people in their Easter finery walking to and from church, bouquets of flowers everywhere. It was a very lonely feeling, as if a wall of glass separated me from the day in which I found myself wandering. But then I met this boy, and started spending holidays with his family. That first Easter together, in April of 2002, we went with his mother's family to a restaurant in New Jersey. His grandmother is amazingly shy, and doesn't like new people at all, is in fact afraid of them, and this was the first time we met, and yet somehow at the restaurant she and I ended up sitting next to each other. And, seeing as I am sometimes almost as pathologically shy as she is, we were able to be shy together, and not startle or scare each other, and in the end it worked out well. And every Easter since then, until now, I have spent with this family.

I am, finally, starting to get used to the idea of being on my own again, though I still miss the easy embrace with which this boy and his family took me in. I am shoring up walls, taking measures, and will be having dinner tomorrow evening with Andrew & Chris. It's too late to sink back into wandering the city alone on Easter, that sense of separateness is not a place in which I want to find myself again. Besides, I have to see the boys if only to hopefully pawn off some of the Easter goodies that arrived from my mother in the mail yesterday. Tropical flavoured jelly beans and chocolate marshmallow eggs and mini Cadbury eggs and pastel-wrapped Hershey's kisses and little yellow Peeps. I do love chocolate, but there's only so much one girl can eat.

1 comment:

Ben Bloom said...

Hi Em,
I'm very touched by this entry. I believe that I can understand how you felt being alone, walking down the city streets. I still feel a twinge of sadness knowing that no one in my family is willing to put together a proper Passover seder since my mother's death. I thought today, Easter, that maybe I just need to do it myself next year. We always went to my Aunt's house, but when my mother (her sister & best friend) and my Uncle (her husband) died, she stopped hosting this. I understand that it was maybe too much for her. I remember her telling me that she was 64, her time was almost up, and that she was too old to be dealing with all of this. I told her that I'm 18, and I wouldn't be able to survive if I didn't somehow forge ahead. My family, the few that keep in touch, were somewhat annoyed when I started going to church, but where were they when I needed help? When I asked my Aunt if I could stay with her when I came home from a college break and she said no, what was I supposed to think? She raised three kids and a dog in that house. She was now in that big house all alone, and I was pratically on the street. A Christian family warmly invited me in and gave me a place to stay, in a much smaller house. The only thing they asked was that I go to church with them, but they then took that back, not wanting to pressure me.
Ben.