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Sunday, April 24, 2011

Eastah in Wistah


When I was a kid, Easter marked the beginning of spring and the end of another long cold New England winter; ushering in the return of kick ball, long bike rides, and eventually summer vacation. Although most of the trees still stood naked and desperate looking, spring was officially in the air. It was as though the April sun had become a patient crock pot…slowly thawing out the neighborhood, and producing a fresh batch of happy smells that had been frozen away for months.

Ma began planning our Easter outfits right after New Year; cutting and sewing until three frilly pastel dresses, with layer upon layer of tulle puffiness, appeared on hangers in our closets. These dresses were made to open up like Gerber Daisies when you twirled around in them. I can still remember my sisters and I twirling until we were sick with dizziness and then falling down in fits of wet-your-pants laughter.

On Easter Eve, Ma would set our hair in rags and then make us wear our underpants on our heads to keep them in place (okay, we were poor). The desired result was three little heads draped in long dark bologna curls. The next morning we’d ransack our apartment searching for our Easter baskets; snarling and clawing at each other like feral cats, until our hunt was rewarded and we were gorging ourselves on marshmallow chicks, jelly beans, and speckled malt eggs. The coveted hollow chocolate bunny, which never made it through the hunt in one piece, was set aside for later. As we munched on our candy, Ma would remove our rags; transforming us into three gluttonous Shirley Temple look-a-likes.

We were poor and scrappy, but once we donned our fancy dresses we became demure and polite. Even our Worcester accents took on a hoity-toity quality, sounding more like, Oliver Twist, meets Tony, The-Ice-Pick, Garbino.

Easter service always seemed too long. What with that banged up chocolate bunny waiting at home and a big meal to look forward to. The crowded church became a sea of pastels and stank of morning after booze breath and cheap perfume. Punctually, the high mass would begin and the church would come alive with the ceremonial thurible swinging (incense bong), genuflecting, and our cantata singing priest. The best thing about Easter service was hearing that Jesus was finally off of that awful cross and alive again. The worst part was leaving, and having to walk under the life-sized wooden carving of Jesus still hanging on the cross, complete with realistic blood stains and glistening tears. Staring soulfully down at me, I always felt that Jesus somehow needed my help getting down from there.






8 comments:

Kris said...

You always paint a vivid picture of your life and childhood not to mention you have a great memory. It almost seems like a beautiful time, childhood is long gone for you and I but some of the memories will remain.

Cheryl said...

Hi Leah, There is something grand that comes out of starting out poor. I think it makes us ever so appreciative of the things we have acheived later in life. I remember those frilly little dresses too. And bonnets or brimmed hats with ribbons. Didn't we all look so cute in our Easter finery and Shirley Temple curls. Have a great day today.

Leah Griffith said...

Kris, I think we hold onto the things that matter and let the rest fade into the darkness...

Leah Griffith said...

Happy Easter Cheryl, Yes, we looked quite impressive. Remember the little white gloves...I loved those.

pixielui said...

Once my sister asked "why we celebrate Jesus birth and then four month later celebrate his death?" to my mother and I still think about it. I mean why not celebrate Sermon on the Mountain and leave all the pagan rituals out! STS (snickering to self)Best Easter for me was when we got the Radio Flyer wagon and Pound Puppies. And I too wore the Shirley Temple curls.

Leah Griffith said...

I know what you mean Pixie...I couldn't understand why they had him still nailed to that cross. I still don't understand. Holidays hold some of my best and worst memories...just like life huh?

S.K.Delph said...

More memories! I spent numerous summers of my childhood in Massachusetts. I have several relatives in Framingham, Boston, and in fact I just spent almost two years in Boston a year before last. (yes, I travel a bunch) Long cold winters are a stark reality in New England, but it's all worth it when we make it through and dress up in Easter's finest. It sounds like you had a loving mother and a touching childhood. Isn't it the best, trials and hardships give us so much more to draw from as writers!

Leah Griffith said...

Most of my family is still in Worcester. I love that you have history there! The more I get to know you the more I see all that we have in common. I had a great mother and a sweet...and terrifying childhood, which makes for great writing. One must use what they have ;)

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