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March 31, 2018

Growing up in Louisa – Easter!   

Weekly feature . . . by Mike Coburn

As a child this special weekend used to be all about kids getting new ‘Easter’ clothes, getting chocolate Easter bunnies (loved to bite off the ears!), a basket full of Easter eggs, cellophane grass, and lots of jelly beans. It was a time that most families would go to church and thereby swell the ranks of parishioners by twice again the normal crowd. Special music would be presented by the choir and the preacher’s sermon was sure to tell about Christ’s resurrection. There would be with hymns of praise in thankfulness for the salvation obtained for us by Jesus’s death on the cross.

 I’ve seen it snow on Easter and I’ve seen it when it was warm. I know that some churches band together to hold a consolidated sunrise service, often on the banks of a river, lake or sea. This allows for us to watch the sun break above the horizon. We could feel the light and warmth of the rising sun even on the chilly mornings. With our faces lit, we hugged and prepared to make this the best Easter ever. This practice is based upon the Gospel narrative that tells us it was early in that first Easter morning when they found the tomb was empty. He had risen! Indeed, Christ is risen! Churches have long celebrated with a ‘sun (son) rise’ service. Today, I’m afraid that many of us have rolled over in bed knowing full well it was time for our feet to hit the floor. With a little encouragement we finally stir and join the new day. After all, getting up early once a year isn’t all that hard. Most of the time we joined the choirs in their singing and listened to the preachers retell the story. Once the service has ended and the sun was clearly up, we rushed home to get into our Easter best for the main service later in the day.

Easter is also a time of visits with extended family members coming in from out of town. Surely the social notices in the little weekly paper would be full of people visiting families and friends. Kids would be home from college and would see their cousins, or their friends after a long winter’s absence. Of course, along with many kinds of political correctness, the Easter break has become ‘Spring Break.’ Along with that ‘off-topic’ approach came the headaches of parents trying to keep kids in the family celebrations and away from Florida’s beaches. That struggle continues to the point that expectations are that college kids (and some high schoolers) would rather party in the tropics rather than join in the religious celebrations on Easter Sunday morning. We have thrown God out of our schools and turned to hedonistic wanderings, yet we wonder why evil is so prevalent and why mankind has seems to have gone wild.

Easter also means it is time for daffodils and jonquils to bloom. The flower shop are busy suppling the churches and finer homes about town with Easter lilies, perhaps even a tulip or two. Flowers adorn the new dress or suit. Pear trees will have some blossoms but other fruit trees like the pink cherry trees are just starting to turn. Yellow forsythia also blooms. Everything smacks of spring. If we kids were lucky it would be warm enough that day to play outside. We’d waited a long time to break out our ball mitts, or to ride our bikes. Like the preacher points out, Easter is about ‘new life.’

 Little girls would be out in their new pastel dresses. Some would dress up their dolls and push the baby strollers up and down the sidewalks. I remember their cute white socks that they wore that had lace or little flowers sewn around the top edge. Their black patent leather shoes, or in some cases, white patent leather shoes, would reflect a shine that no ‘shine-boy’ could ever deliver. (Try to find a shoeshine these days) There would be ribbons for her hair and a flower corsage to pin on the front of the Easter dress. I remember a few little flowery Easter hats, too! It was also fashionable in those days that the girls wear short white gloves, while the ladies wore them up to, or beyond the elbows.

Another memory includes special music, whether hymns or popular songs. You’ll remember the one worded, ‘In your Easter Bonnet, with all the frills upon it…’ That one sang out on the radios telling us all about the Easter Parade on New York’s 5th Avenue. While New York living wasn’t part of our culture the music was. Another song was ‘Here comes Peter Cotton Tail, hopping down the bunny trail.’ Of course, the Easter Parade song was out of a popular movie of the day. I doubt I saw it on its first run, but at some point, I enjoyed the musical right there in the Garden Theater, maybe on an early spring day with some of you.

In church we’d sing, “Christ the Lord is Risen Today, Alleluia,” “Because He Lives,” “He Lives,” and “Christ Arose.” This holiday was second only to Christmas and was a grand time of celebration and augmented by the unusual crowds that showed up at church. There were a few churches that had Easter cantatas or song-fests. The Halleluiah Chorus from the “Messiah” rang out as the congregation rose to join in the singing. Whether in a small country church or a large, towered cathedral, the world that I knew in those days paused to remember the resurrection. In that lies the hope of mankind.      

 An annual occurrence at church, and often again at home, was the big Easter egg hunt. Some years that would mean that the adults would hide the eggs we’d carefully decorated all around the yard. There were years that they were hidden indoors because of mean weather conditions, but we hunted them nonetheless. Some were well hidden enough they wouldn’t be found for days, or weeks. Yuck! Because we were mostly older kids during these times we all hunted at the same time. I remember times when only the younger kids could hunt. Later, the older kids would take the eggs and hide them again for the younger ones. There may have been several cycles of hiding and finding.

I remember the days just prior to Easter when mom had me in the kitchen with the other kids and we’d decorate the eggs. She had already hard-boiled them, so we only had to carefully dip them into the little bowls of different colors that she had concocted. I remember that she used a vinegar base with food coloring, or a kit with tablets of different colors. The kit had a little wire holder that allowed one to dip the eggs into the color without them slipping and falling in. It also kept little fingers out of the mix. I found it fun to experiment with the color selections to get a variety of different results. The kit also had a wax pencil that allowed us to write our names on the eggs prior to dipping them. The color would cover the whole eggs except for the written names. It was basic, but to me it seemed like magic.   

Even with all the excitement, somehow that day also seemed to be a day of peace. We had the big family dinner with all the guests, talking and laughing. I especially enjoyed the desserts and listening to the adults swap stories. Afterward, we found ourselves with heavy eye-lids as we settled on the living room furniture. For some, it was nap time. A few of the adults went out for a spell to visit other friends and relatives. Some settled in their bedrooms, but I just sank deeply into the couch in the front room. Along the way, between church and naptime, we boys lost our neckties, or bow ties, and kicked off our shoes. It was time to just settle back and enjoy feeling good.

Suddenly, there was a commotion! The ladies of the house came up with a brainstorm! Out came the Brownie cameras and back on went the Easter outfits. We were busy crowding around to take pictures of everyone. We sat up in groups, singles, and every way that came to mind. Those snapshots would be developed and shared around, destined to fill the latest album. I have copies of one or two of those that I still look at when I’m feeling nostalgic. I’ve scanned most of those now, so I can pull them out easily from my computer. Man, has that ever changed.

When I do look back, I think that those faces of our youth are haunting. I can see the innocence of youth and the lack of worry or concern, but albums will also show that this would change over time. We were bound to find challenges nearly every day of our lives. It might have been a tough school lesson, making a team, getting a date, going off to school or the military, getting married, having kids, and seeing them marry, too.

 Even as this cycle goes on much remains the same. My family still does Easter egg hunts, goes to church, visits with our grown children and their families, have a big meal, and maybe again wish for that nap. Even though there is a much more important reason for Easter, freely provided for us by the grace of God, we also still cherish those wonderful times with friends and family and those Easter traditions we continue to share together.

Hmmm, now, who took my chocolate bunny?

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Comments  

0 #1 Bernard 2018-03-31 14:53
Another fine article Mike, Yep Easter was very special around our house, Mom fixing a special Easter Dinner, wearing our Sunday best to Sunday School & Church, big Easter egg hunt after church. Lots of eggs & candy bunnies.
Always a great time
So many times we forget why we celebrate tehese dates, everyone needs to pause & give thanks for all their blessings on this day & everyday. Keep them coming & "Thanks for the Memories", dear friend .
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