Just Fine

My mother called me yesterday and asked me if I was going to host Easter this year.  I could hear the hope in her voice, which made it even harder to remind her that no, I wasn’t going to able to do that.  I told her that we were all going to have to celebrate Easter in our own homes this year, and wait to get together when the “shelter at home” orders are finally lifted.  To her credit, she told me that was just fine and quickly changed the subject.  But I know that my answer hurt her.

Mom always enjoys family gatherings and holiday celebrations, and she was especially looking forward to Easter this year.  She’s been talking about it for a couple of months, ever since she heard that my out-of-town sister and her family were planning to come for Easter.  Mom was thrilled at the thought of having all three of her daughters and their families together to celebrate the holiday, but of course that was before the spread of the Covid-19 virus resulted in massive shutdowns and stay at home orders.  My sister cancelled her visit and I cancelled my plans to host our family gathering.  So this year, Mom is going to be celebrating Easter all by herself:  no family meals, no attending church services, and no watching her great-grandson hunt for Easter eggs.

I know that thousands of people are suffering far greater losses and disappointments than my mother.  I know that this virus has claimed too many lives and cost too many people their livelihood.  But the last thing I’m going to do is to point that out to my mother, or to tell that she has no right to feel disappointed or sad.  She has every right to feel her emotions and every right to mourn her loss, even if other people are mourning much greater ones.  Grief isn’t a contest, and if we never allowed ourselves to feel sad because other people have bigger troubles, we’d never be allowed to feel sad at all.  Which is just plain ridiculous.

Honestly, I admire the way my mother is handling the situation.  This may not be the Easter celebration she wanted, but it’s the Easter celebration she’s getting, and she’s accepted that.  (Which is what often happens once we allow ourselves to actually feel our emotions rather than feel guilty for having them.)  She knows that she we can’t safely visit her in the retirement center right now, and that it isn’t safe for her to come to our house and risk being exposed to the virus and worse, spreading it to the other senior citizens who live in her building.  But she also tells me often that she knows she made the right choice in moving to the retirement center and that they take excellent care of her there.

DSC03117We may not be physically together this year, but I can still drop off an Easter basket at her retirement center and there will be Easter services and concerts she can enjoy on TV.  I’ll call her on Easter and I’m sure the rest of our family will too, which will make her feel much less alone.  We may not be able to celebrate in our traditional way, but we will still celebrate and we will still connect with each other.  Which means that ultimately, my mother was right.  Easter really is going to be “just fine.”

My Easter Tradition

DSC03117For me, nothing marks the passage of time quite like the holidays.  I tend to organize my year around them:  if it is fall, then I know Halloween is near, and Thanksgiving isn’t far behind.  The long dark days of early December mean Christmas is coming, the cold winter days of February mean Valentaine’s Day, and of course, spring means Easter.  When I look back over the different phases of my life, I tend to measure them not so much by my accomplishments (no surprise there, considering what passes for accomplishments in my life), but by how I celebrated the holidays.  And Easter is no exception.

When I was very young, Easter meant getting a pretty new dress, shoes and often a shiny white vinyl purse, but what I looked forward to the most was the Easter basket full of candy.  My new purse often came in very handy for smuggling a few jelly beans from my Easter basket into church, where I could enjoy them during the service as long as I wasn’t siimage20-0_0047tting next to my mother.  She had an eye for those things.  Later, as a teenager, I was part of a youth group that hosted an Easter sunrise service at a nearby lake.  I hated getting out of bed so early, but sitting with my friends, watching the sun rise over the lake on a chilly Easter morning was an experience I still treasure.  Then I had children, and the fun with Easter baskets and special Easter outfits started all over again.

Now my children are grown, and their Easter baskets are more likely to be filled with small gift cards and scratch-off lottery tickets than with candy.  I still go to church on Easter sunday, but only to the inside service that starts at a more civilized hour.  Usually, my family is all together for the holiday, but not always, and I know that is a natural part of my kids growing up and moving on with their lives.  Time marches on, and the way we celebrate holidays reflects that.

But I do have one Easter tradition that has remained constant during the years:  the annual dyeing of the Easter eggs.  I did it when I was small, sitting around the kitchen table with my cousins and my sisters; I dyed eggs when I was a teenager and single young adult; I talked my husband into dyeing eggs with me even before our children were born, and I am going to do it this year, too.  I’ve experimented with different types of dye over the years, but the basic routine has remained the same.  Everyone, including the dogs, gets an egg with their name on it, and then the remaining eggs are dyed various shades of pastel with no swirling, speckling or other such silliness allowed.IMG_5586

My daughter won’t be home for Easter this year, but we’ll still make an egg with her name on it.  This year we’ll also have one less dog to make an egg for (rest in peace, sweet Sandy), but Lucy’s egg will be in her basket on Easter morning.  I know that I can’t control the changes that time brings, and I know that the way I celebrate holidays will continue to change to reflect the current phase of my life, but as long as I can lift an egg and dip it into the cup of dye, I will do it.  Because to me, it’s important to keep a few traditions going, and dyeing eggs is what I do at Easter.