Eostre, Osiris and Martha

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My Granny told me once that if you didn’t have something new to wear on Easter, the Easter Buzzards would come and vomit on you. I didn’t get anything out-n-out new this year, unless you count my eyeliner. I’m experimenting with different colors of liquid eyeliner and tried out two. And I carried my new-old beaded purse from goodwill (and wore 30 year old earrings that I got for my confirmation and haven’t probably worn since the early 90s). The purse reminds me of the fancy purses my mom had from the 60s that she used to let me take out and look at when I was a kid.

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I think Easter was my favorite holiday growing up, possibly because it was lighter and warmer than Christmas and it was associated with flowers and newness. Also, the cultural differences between us and other families seemed less obvious at Easter, maybe because the Easter Bunny (who my parents didn’t believe in) was less of a celebrity than Santa Claus (who my parents also didn’t believe in). We didn’t usually get new clothes, but we dyed eggs and got up early for the Easter Breakfast at church. If you were rugged, you went to service before the breakfast, at 7:30 or something like that. The steps up to the alter were crowded with Easter lilies, the choir wore white robes and there were brass players supplementing the organ. I haven’t been to church on Easter in probably 10 years, but I still have to at least hum the first few bars of “Christ the Lord is Risen Today” every Easter morning.

I particularly loved Easter breakfast, even though it was mostly mediocre coffee cake and hardboiled Easter eggs eaten off of paper plates. The teenagers served coffee and juice in small styrofoam cups and everyone crowded together on long cafeteria tables, under fluorescent lights, in the church basement.

This year I woke up at 4:45, for no reason particular reason (although I did go to sleep before 9:00 the night before). Then I set to puttering about in the kitchen because I had done zero Easter preparations. Partly that’s because it was the first time in several years I haven’t hosted family brunch, so all I had to do was make deviled eggs and cookies to take to my brother and sister-in-laws. And I was just scatterbrained this year.

IMG_2204Easter is also my favorite time to channel Martha Stewart and do something pastel and fussy with food. Usually I make macaroon nests, but this year my nieces wanted to make nests, so I decided to make almond shortbread cookies (almond meal, flour, butter and sugar – how can one go wrong…?). They actually came out, which surprised me slightly, given that I didn’t use a recipe. They weren’t very sweet, but they tasted pretty good, particularly after they’d sat out, filled, for a couple of hours. I also simplified my deviled egg chicks. The cream cheese filling and the deviled eggs gave me a chance to use my (goodwill) special metal cookie and icing funnel which is probably as old as I am. I got the crafty food mostly finished before the kids woke up. Because dying eggs together was about as much collaborative developmental play as I could handle with my kids this weekend. I also had to fit in a trip to the supermarket.IMG_2206

Not having received Easter baskets as a kid, I warmed up slowly to the idea of Easter baskets as a parent. The year my oldest turned two, I gave her a rubber stamp. Somewhere in there I got into giving the kids each a chocolate truffle shaped like a ladybug from our local chocolate company. This year I forgot to get the truffles, but fortunately Fred Meyer has taken to carrying Moonstruck chocolates, so I showed up at Fred Meyer five minutes before it opened at 7:00 am. There were quite a few other people waiting for the doors to open as well. Who knew there were door busters at Freddy’s on Easter Sunday?

I found the Moonstruck endcap, figuring I’d probably just wind up with regular truffles. Or maybe toffee eggs, but they had the ladybugs. After getting apples, TP and milk, I went over to the toy section, with the notion of getting the kids Lego mini figures, since I usually give them one other thing besides the ladybug. For some reason there were no single mini figure packets in the whole Lego aisle at Fred Meyer (Chima – check, Star Wars – check, City – check, Creator – check, Lego Friends-TM in the separate pink Girls Section – check). Fortunately I found 2-packs of pastel colored Sharpies, so I got one for each kid. The kids enjoyed their truffle and Sharpies. So far the youngest hasn’t marked on the furniture (that I’ve noticed).

There was no church service or spread of PAAS tinged eggs in lurid plastic grass, but instead a festive brunch with with my sister-in-law’s family. My nieces had made cornflake nests with marshmallow peeps and teal and gold peanut eggs that matched their cookie stand. (My children seem to buy my explanation that peeps aren’t really food).

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As a kid I didn’t think much about the theology of Easter. The women went to the tomb and Christ was risen. That was just his thing, ya know? As an adolescent I took confirmation classes, as a young adult I took religious history classes and attended Quaker meetings. I have attended Easter services in the church of my foremothers in Virginia, and gone to Easter vigil mass with a love. I returned regularly to the church of my childhood after I had moved away to another city and also to studied agnosticism.

The strange history of Easter makes me appreciate it more: The festivals of the dismembered, consumed and reborn gods Osiris and Dionysus, mixed with the spring equinox celebration of fertility goddesses Esther, Astarte and Eostre. Then just for fun throw the political and cultural struggles of the Roman imperial occupation of Palestine into the mix. Top it off with a touch of wonder, tie on some mystery and add eggs.

At 5:15 this morning, I was checking Facebook while loading the dishwasher and finding IMG_2201the parts of the standmixer. A friend in Michigan had posted 12 hours before (8ish in the evening her time) words to the effect of “Go look at the moon! Right now.” So I went out onto my front porch, where the moon sets in the morning, and there it was, perfectly full in the twigs of the walnut tree. Twelve hours after that, as I went out into the yard to look at my newly planted garden, I happened to walk down the driveway and found an egg in the leaf debris next to the house. It was dirty and felt light and dry. I did used to wonder if the duck, dead these past two months, had ever laid an egg any place but in her cage. And I suppose its possible that one of the neighbors’ chickens took a notion to venture out and hide an egg. But in any event, I stuck the egg in the dirt next to my pea starts. A little fertility for my plants, two kinds of wonder, some mystery and an egg. (But no buzzard barf!)

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