I always celebrated Easter when I was growing up. Both my parents were Catholic, so of course we observed the holy day. It was the special weekend when we gorged on baskets of chocolate, ate a baked ham, and watched The Ten Commandments. Sometimes we would also catch a broadcast of the King of Kings. This is the film where Jesus is a blonde-haired, blue-eyed, prophet. It seemed he should’ve been carrying a surf board for his sermon on the mount. “Blessed are the meek and hang ten.”
Catholicism was practiced in our house but never dictated. I’d accompany my dad to Wednesday novena service. I didn’t understand the prayers, but I liked the incense and the statue of the Virgin Mary. I probably would have gone regularly, if it wasn’t for the constant kneeling. Sit, kneel, sit, kneel – my knees were numb by the end of the mass.
I lost interest in the pageantry when I found out I could buy incense at Bowen’s Variety Store. Plus, I wasn’t allowed one of the “Lord Lozenges,” because I never went to catechism classes. I wasn’t confirmed. No communion for me. I would sit alone in the pew while my dad got in line for the free samples. I wasn’t a real Catholic, just a visitor with a pass. “All the heathens remain seated during this portion of the service.”
The bible seemed like a fascinating book with all types of adventures and divine interventions. It is not the most enjoyable read with its archaic language. No one was “smitied” or “smoted” in my Nancy Drew mysteries. I needed a version I could understand. What about bible stories in comic book form with a few caped superheroes? I’d read Superman vs. The Ten Plagues.
This was a case where the movies were better than the book. I loved watching The Bible: In the Beginning, an epic film directed by John Houston. It was fun to watch floods, famines and people being turned to pillars of salt. A human sacrifice is always good for some extra popcorn. Biblical movies always had grand characters and majestic soundtracks.
Charlton Heston will always be Moses to me, and Lily Munster was a good Mrs. Moses. With a little bronzer, no one would ever know they were as far away from ethnic as the set of the movie was from the Middle East. It’s Hollywood – it’s about entertainment not accuracy.
I was an inquisitive, introspective child, so I began to question the stories in the bible. Some of the extraordinary feats in the films seemed questionable to me. How does one part a sea, turn water into wine, or turn a rod into a serpent? It’s like David Copperfield wrote the bible.
Was I supposed to believe these stories as truth rather than fiction? I became a real doubting Thomas. I needed proof. I would ask my parents, “if all those miracles took place in biblical times, why weren’t they still occurring today?” I wanted to meet the current day Christian heroes. Where were the leper healers, the water walkers, or the herald angels? My mom said having faith was believing and we didn’t always see miracles occurring. That was an acceptable answer for her but not me. George Michael had Faith – I had questions.
As I grew from childhood, I turned away from those biblical concepts. They are stories passed down from generations – a whispering down the lane. Acts of normal men and women over time and telling become characters who talked to burning bushes and killed giants with stones. I looked for a more scientific explanation that could encompass physical energy as a form of spirituality.
I don’t know how that fits in with chocolate eggs and ham, but at some point I didn’t need to go through the celebration of Easter as my family once did. Traditions change with life experiences. As blood sugar levels, cholesterol and carbs become a concern, we give up the candy baskets in order to avoid the thought of caskets.
In the last few years, since my partner is Jewish, I’ve become more aware of when it’s Passover than the celebration of Easter. This year I had to be reminded that Easter Sunday was approaching. Many times I’ve talked to Gary about different holidays growing up and how my mom always made it special. I shared how she prepared beautiful baskets in the guise of the Easter Bunny.
They were a feast for the eyes. A woven basket filled with chocolate eggs, bunnies, brightly colored jelly beans and marshmallow Peeps. The basket was always wrapped in blue, yellow or purple cellophane, and tied with a giant bow. I always believed that the cellophane was for the Easter Bunny’s ease of transporting the baskets. No spillage or stray eggs along the delivery trail. The real fact was mom hermetically sealed the basket, so there would be no pilferage before breakfast. There was no way to get into the candy stash without crinkling the cellophane and sounding an alarm.
This year, my partner, Gary decided to surprise me with an Easter basket in honor of the childhood baskets I remembered. It was a very thoughtful and caring gesture right down to the giant Twix egg. I could fit the chocolate into my daily diet by ignoring the scale and giving up bacon – no problem.
Gary also decided to prepare an Easter basket for our close friend Lisa who we thought needed a little holiday treat. He bought a large coconut egg, Lindt Truffles, a chocolate bunny and a bag of Strawberry Shortcake M&M’s. All were arranged in a basket, and put in a gift bag with an Easter card.
We delivered the candy, just like the Easter bunny, on the night before Easter. Lisa was out for the evening, so we hid the gift bag on her front porch. We were excited and hoped she would be too. Later that night, Gary received a text from Lisa letting him know whatever we had left was taken by squirrels. There were only a few remnants left in the dark. She texted a photo of the crime scene.
It was harrowing to look at. There were several wrappers from the truffles lying in the dirt, and the tattered bow from the chocolate bunny’s neck. These rogue squirrels had molested an innocent chocolate rabbit and then celebrated with gooey truffles. Evidently, Lisa feeds the squirrels, so they knew where to find the sweet treasures.
The baffling part was that Lisa saw no evidence of a gift bag or basket. It had vanished. This was an incredulous situation. Here was a new Easter story that had epic elements. What type of squirrels could steal an entire gift bag of candy with only a few pieces of evidence left? I couldn’t imagine squirrels able to drag a gift bag across a parking lot and into a nearby tree.
What size were these squirrels and how much candy could they eat? I suggested calling the police to come with a spot light and start checking the tops of trees for hidden gift bags. Who knows what else they could be stealing? Watch out for falling Easter hams and turkeys.
I went to bed dreaming of the giant looting squirrels of Blackwood, and the terrified chocolate bunny staring at its snickering, furry attacker with a sad sugary eye. Lisa would never get to enjoy her Easter candy. It was stashed in the upper branches of an elm; where a fuzzy-tailed rodent family was in throes of an Easter eve sugar rush.
In my subconscious I had my serpent rod and I yelled at the infidels, “I will smite you in your sugar coated hideout. I will disperse you like thieves from the temple!” Okay, I have a good imagination and a belief in a good story. If I could believe that Edward G. Robinson was an Israelite conspiring against Moses, I could believe in squirrels with human strength and a taste for truffles.
On Easter morning, Lisa found the battered remains of the bunny. Its chocolate ears were chewed off and it lay discarded in the gutter like roadkill. She threw it into the dumpster where it could claim a final resting place. In the light of day, Lisa combed her porch like a detective looking for further evidence. The Special Victims Unit did not have to be called in, for there hidden behind the leg of a patio chair was our gift bag containing the Easter basket.
The mystery was solved and the majority of the candy was intact. The squirrels had brutally attacked the bunny, but they were not able to carry a gift bag from the scene of the crime. I was able to have faith again in my fellow rodents, and give up the image of the giant He-Man squirrel victimizing the residents of Valleybrook.
I guess we can always allow our imaginations to overtake us. We can believe in all types of stories – no matter how incredible or logic defying they are. It’s what we believe that can make us strong or have us reacting in fear.
This Easter I learned that it’s fun to revisit past traditions, and that every situation is not always as it appears. We have to look deeper, beyond what we see on the surface. Wait for the light to show us the truth, and in whatever form – have some faith.