When the weather begins to warm up and the azaleas and dogwoods bloom, I remember my mother—more now than in January, when we were still celebrating her birthday, or Memorial Day, when she breathed her last just before dawn in a small patient room at Flowers Hospital, or even on Labor Day weekend, which marked the anniversary of her marriage to my father in 1956.
I always think of her at Easter because, in the holiday department, she considered rebirth to be far more significant than the birth of Christ.
My mother loved Easter, and in retrospect I remember her talking a lot more about the crucifixion and resurrection than the birth of Christ. She welcomed the burst of spring color as a metaphor for renewal. She led us to the dogwood tree in the front yard to examine the flowers and explained that their four-petalled shape, along with the fading at the ends, represented Christ on the cross.
Every year, my sisters and I woke up on Easter Sunday to rattan baskets nested in a bountiful tangle of cellophane-wrapped green faux “grass,” plastic eggs, candies, and other candies. In the center would be the piece de resistance – a solid chocolate bunny in profile with a single candy cane eye glued to its face.
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But before we could get into the sweets, there was a lot to do. We had to put on our Easter clothes, gather in the yard in front of the azalea bush that best suited us, and take the annual Easter photo. We had to jump in the car and drive to church for the Easter service. Then we would go home to eat cooked ham, green beans and potato salad. Then, if all had gone well, we could throw away our Easter baskets.
One Easter day we made the mistake of leaving them on the steps of the carport as we scampered off to the side yard to take pictures. When we returned, we found our overturned Easter baskets awash in the detritus of colored foil and half-chewed cardboard, while Poochie, the family dog, cowered shyly on the other side of the carport, his cock fanning wildly and her mouth banging with the last bit of melted chocolate bunny.
It remains one of my most vivid Easter memories, and perhaps my favorite.
In her later years, long after my father died, my mother took up crafts. She bought some plywood and a dangerous selection of power saws and tools, and created a population of plywood bunnies and eggs in a palette of pastels and assembled them in the front yard with a cross she had obtained of the church and the different fabrics to drape over it. It was a strange duality, the religious and the profane, a sort of echo of another craft project – a village of elves and Santas, which she set up at Christmas flanking a figure in wooden nativity scene that someone once said looked like two roaring dinosaurs.
I think Mom would be happy to be remembered at Easter, and that’s not the only time we remember her. Just last week, my sister Susan and her husband Elias were in town for a gathering of their regional biker group. We had gone for Mexican food – Mom’s favorite – and I ordered two bowls of cheese dip for the table.
Mom loved the cheese dip; Susie said she ordered other dishes just to have an excuse for cheese dip. She savored it, and without fail we heard her exclaim: “Good morning grandmother! and look up to find she had just dripped queso down the front of her Alfred Dunner top.
We laughed at the memory, but each of us approached the cheese dip with caution, knowing that a messy shirt was just a faux pas.
This Sunday, I’ll be thinking about Mom, all those Easter memories, and wondering if there’s a bowl of cheese dip somewhere in someone’s basket.
Bill Perkins is the editorial page editor of the Dothan Eagle and can be reached at [email protected] or 334-712-7901. Support the work of Eagle journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today at dothaneagle.com.