Fifty years ago, in my small little world of Rubberneck Avenue, I understood that families with German heritage “were Lutheran only” and the remaining European descent around the block were customarily of the Roman Catholic faith. Obviously, I’d lost something in the finer details about the Reformation.
Not to worry…on our block, one of our families had Native American blood; this was particularly significant to a few of us! Wow…imagine having bloodlines to the Old West! At that time, a term like indigenous didn’t describe people, only landscapes. This particular favorite family hailed from the Midwest and were of the Protestant faith; Presbyterian actually. They shared their church and fellowship with me at an early age. I was frightened a bit on my first visit; hearing one give a testimony regarding his born-again experience during a church service was almost foreign in concept from my familiar milieu, the Mass; no one spoke out in Mass unless the priest spoke first! But I was intrigued, none the less.
I have old Kodak photos in my childhood album from earlier Easter times. Big Sis would dress me up in my Easter finery, complete with bonnet and lace-trimmed little white socks to accessorize the requisite party dress for a toddler. We would then walk up the street to the local elementary school for the annual Easter Egg Hunt. Memories of well-meaning adults pointing toward the evergreen hedges and whispering,
What do I see there???
helped toddlers like me and my “big” friend on the block, Marion, find enough eggs to return home smiling from our cloud nine experiences! There are photos of Marion and me, proudly standing together on Rubberneck, still clutching our baskets and comparing our precious findings. Marion was a beautiful little girl, with thick bangs and perfectly formed curls. She too was dressed in her Easter finest; only her braced leg is a reminder of the very real polio epidemic that persisted still among children of our generation.
Another favorite photo of mine is of a later Easter with my cousins. The boys are in suits and the girls all with bonnets and bows, standing near the fishpond in my neighbor’s backyard, smiling for the camera. I am at my happiest, standing among my most beloved cousins. (The Brat was obviously too little so is not included in this shot; yes, my smile is wide…no sad feelings about my little sister missing from the moment)
As Winnie and I grew older, we would plan our own Easter egg hunts for our first little nieces and nephews. John and Big Sis would come by early that Sunday morning so we could run our hunt, then they’d leave to enjoy Easter at their own dinner table. When the kids were too old for egg hunts, they sometimes joined us in the evening for an Easter visit and dessert.
I think back on the many Easter tables filled with wonderful food and drink. Traditional dishes graced our table; there was barbequed leg of lamb and a ham, with the requisite side dishes that Mom insisted must be included to complete a proper, holiday dinner. One or two might not eat lamb, but they’d work around it. Hospitality in our Rubberneck home was plentiful though not very flexible; food allergies aside, any recently announced vegetarians could really throw Mom’s balance off …
Are you sure that the potatoes, cheeses and the green salad are going to be enough for you?
Aunts and uncles arrived each year, early and with wines and sometimes a dream cake for dessert! Only Bro and his family would also be there for dinner, (normally running late but Daddy had learned to expect the phone call from Only Bro telling us that his all girl family were still getting ready) so our two littlest nieces were the next generation to experience a homemade egg hunt! They walked in the front door dressed like little dolls, much credit to their mother who not only sewed beautifully, but also baked the absolutely best homemade pies for dessert! Being a reasonable man, Daddy eyed the pies and immediately forgave the late arrival; no penance was necessary! Only Bro often brought a bottle of his favorite white, Wente Brothers Grey Riesling, chilled and ready to enjoy during the first course.
Ours was a home to drop by; Might be slightly nerve-wracking, but the loving intentions easily obscured the initial shock waves from the daily Punch and Judy reruns, compliments of my parents. Cousins originally in bonnets, bows and suits were now old enough to drive; they’d stop by to wish Auntie and Uncle a Happy Easter; this was not a have-to visit despite the family dictates…being around my folks was a want-to, if only for the cheap entertainment!
We shared our casa croute (translated loosely as the house bread) with whoever honored us with a visit on Easter Sunday. Daddy would set up the bar in the kitchen and stay out of Mom’s cooking territory. Neighbors walked in and out, enjoying a cocktail before having to drive over the hill to be with their daughter’s family, or walk back across the street to prepare for guests of their own.
We passed along traditions, not hatred, on Rubberneck. We were several different families, celebrating our common heritage in our homes, unencumbered by protocols, politically correct admonishments, or charlatan’s accusations…our credo was simply: Live and let live.
The static photos in my album are black and white; but the shared good times and humble simplicity of expectations still play vividly in full Technicolor brilliance in this writer’s reverie…
He is Risen!