Saturday, March 22, 2008

Happy Easter Memories

LAS CRUCES — When I search my Easter memory banks, I find very little in the way of traditional stuff. It doesn’t seem as clear-cut, black and white (or red and green) as holidays like Christmas.
My fondest memories center around the art, activity, spirituality and pageantry of it all.
The Easter basket cellophane grass really was greener, back in the day — it wasn’t color coordinated with themed Spider-man or Dora the Explorer eggs and baskets. And the baskets were flimsy little pastel things that probably decomposed in earth-friendly ways shortly after the bunny left them. There is a lot of controversy now about kids and sugary holiday treats, but I can’t think of much that stands out in that department. The distinctive taste of stale, hollow bunny chocolate is not something I’m deeply nostalgic to relive.
My memories center more around fashion than food. Though I came from a family of great cooks and artistic homemakers, I can’t think of a single distinctive basket or Easter dinner menu. But I do remember a beautiful blue dress with cap sleeves and tucks and embroidered flowers on the bodice, and matching white shoes and purse that seemed very glam in elementary school days. And there was a simple, bright yellow sheath in my early teens that made me feel like Jackie O, back when she was Jackie Kennedy and First Lady.
I remember blowing out eggs and decorating them with my artistic mom, and the distinctive smell of hard-boiled eggs and vinegar dye.
There are lots of artistic egg memories that continue into adulthood, like decorating dozens of brown-and-white eggs with Mimbres and other Southwestern Indian designs one year in Florida, when I was missing New Mexico.
Las Cruces has been the source of many great egg memories, dating from my first encounter with Preciliana Sandoval’s cascarones. I took lots of them across the Great Pond to delight residents of our sister city in Nienberg, Germany, who loved Preciliana’s candy-and-confetti-filled little miniature piƱatas. So did grandson Alexander the Great, who shared many happy hours designing exotic eggs with me.
No eggy hiding, hunting or gathering memories come to mind. I don’t remember a single Easter egg hunt, so maybe it wasn’t a family custom. Instead, my maternal grandparents hosted shell hunts for the cousins. We’d paddle in canoes to a remote shore on Lake Margrethe in northern Michigan that we called “Magic Beach,” where tropical shells would mysteriously appear. It was years before we made the connection to our grandparents’ winter trips to Florida and Mexico.
My spiritual memories are a bit exotic, too. I remember little white gloves and the smell of lilies decorating church pews and altars. And a few rare, lovely, rejuvenating Easters in my adult years spent alone, watching Franco Zeffirelli’s wonderful “Jesus of Nazareth” TV miniseries.
It’s my favorite dramatization of the Easter story. By now I know every line and gesture, including Ann (Mary Magdalene) Bancroft’s righteous indignation at disciples who wouldn’t acknowledge that Christ appeared first, post-resurrection, to a woman. I discover something new and profound with each viewing ... and each rereading of the biblical original.
Easter is especially meaningful now that I’m living in the City of the Crosses. There is something eternally restorative and inspiring about the symbol of the cross.
Sometimes I wish we had better ways to stress all the messages of Easter: not just the courage, sacrifice and suffering, but also the joy of the resurrection.
And I remember an Easter when I felt marooned and exhausted, broken in body and spirit, and friends suddenly appeared to invite me on a trip of a lifetime, a cruise on their yacht through the Caribbean.
Seasickness confined me to the boat one day when the rest of the gang were having adventures ashore. Finally, I felt better and went on deck to find a sight my amigos missed: the shore was alive with kites. A crew member explained that it was a local custom, symbolizing the ascension of souls and Christ’s return to heaven.
And nearly two decades later, that’s where my thoughts go first, when I think of Easter: not to eggs or bunnies or even lilies and altars, but to a fleet of kites on a small tropical island, symbolizing a joyful, soulful promise.

S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at dmoore@lcsun-news.com

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