My mom loved Easter.
I remember her taking her ancient singer sewing machine and, though she wasn’t a seamstress, figuring out how to make matching Easter dresses for us little girls in a light blue scratchy fabric. I couldn’t wait till mine was done.
I remember her helping us to make Easter baskets. One year we wrapped tons of embroidery floss around balloons and then dipped them in starch. When they dried we popped the balloons and trimmed the shell to become a basket. Another year we made cotton ball bunny baskets out of a ½ gallon milk carton, and another year we made edible baskets out of meringue. She even made Jello Easter eggs.
Once I got up in the night from a bad dream while she was “helping” the Easter Bunny fill our baskets. When she saw me she told me “he” had heard me coming and was hiding behind the big chair. He was running late and she had needed to help him, but I must hurry to bed so that he could get on his way. I am sure I saw the tips of his ears poking out over the top of the chair.
I have wanted to create for my children some of these sweet memories, but I somehow always fall behind. I tell myself next year things won’t be so hectic, but they always are. Last year we didn’t even dye eggs. I was determined this year would be different.
My favorite memory, Mom's Jello eggs, was first on my list. It was the only time in my childhood when someone was ever jealous of something in my school lunch. I drilled open the tops of plastic eggs, made the mix according to the jigglers directions on the box, and was feeling very proud. Till the eggs began leaking. I wanted to call mom and ask what she did to get hers to work, but she is gone. I decided to tape the seams of the eggs, but because I have four children I HAVE NO TAPE. Ever. Unless you count painters tape. Which I used, unsuccessfully.
Next I set up our egg dyeing. I tried to create the happy family in Martha Stewart Living magzine - making beautiful, ornate and perfect eggs. I planned for four eggs each, but even with extras, several cracked, leaving us short. The colors got mixed. Some didn’t really work. The kids got frustrated. A few eggs got dropped, bringing tears. Don’t get me wrong; there were moments when things were happy and fun, but it certainly wasn’t perfect.
Undaunted, though very tired, I kissed Guy goodbye as he and Ethan headed to a church men’s conference, and set out to make cupcakes. I threw sprinkles in to the batter to make it look Eastery. I planned to make the cupcakes look like little baskets. I would top them with green frosting and little candy eggs. Oh, dang. I forgot the candy, not just for the cupcakes, but for the baskets for the kids as well.
Not to worry, there must be a way to make something, I told myself. I got out my mother’s tattered Betty Crocker cookbook and found the perfect recipe, made the dough, and had the kids rolling tiny little colored eggs in no time. The five children we were to babysit that night arrived and soon all eight kids were washed and helping. I was fading, but trying to remain idealistic.
8PM. Cupcakes done. Eggs dyed. Jello setting (in a pool, under the shells).
Oh, yeah, dinner. I kinda forgot about that.
8:30 PM. Leftovers. I settled the cupcakes nostalgically on my mother’s china platter. Guy finally came home (thankfully, with Easter candy) at nine. The cupcakes were gone before he even saw them.
Mom seemed so good at these things. But maybe my memory is foggy, and maybe she didn’t try to do them all in one day. And perhaps I am not remembering the most important things about mom. Mom loved other things about Easter. She loved the stories of Easter, and the pages of her bible that held them were as worn as her old cookbook. She opened our minds to the possibilities of things greater than ourselves, of worlds beyond this world, and to eternal reasons for goodness that transcend those that compel us when we focus only on ideals or moments.
Today was Easter. As a family we gathered for church conference and listened to lessons on faith and charity. Later we tried the failed Jello eggs, and laughed, slurping jello chunks out of the plastic shell halves. We celebrated a belated birthday for Guy by giving him the presents we had not had means to finish the week before. We shared dinner with dear friends and hunted for eggs indoors to the sound of the rain. At dinner we played a game which had us ask each other questions. One question asked, “Who is someone that you sorely miss?”
“My mom,” I said. “She loved Easter.”
“I miss her, too.” Guy agreed, a little teary. “She was a fun mother-in-law.”
I felt closer to her than I have in years.
The message of Easter is one of new life and new beginnings. It is one of renewal. It is a message of hope; that we are still connected to those who have gone before us. I don’t believe that this moment in time, this blink in eternity that we call life is all that there is. I believe the soul is eternal as well.
I look forward to being with my mom again one day, and though it won’t matter by then, (because it really doesn’t even matter now), I can ask her for her secret to perfect jello eggs.