New Realities of Motherhood

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter Memories

As a child growing up in the Midwest, it rained most every year on Good Friday. I remember it with distinctness because of my mother's reply when I asked her why. She said it was to wash away the sins of the people who put Him to death and a reminder of those that were still crying. Since moving to Arizona, the weather is glorious this time of the year. The yard is in bloom and the sun couldn't be brighter. I praise the day knowing that this is also a marker of the weather's gentleness soon to be replaced with blazing heat around the corner. I seize the day in glorious reflection.

As a child, I remember picking out a special dress in preparation of Easter each year til I was 10 or 11 years old... and hat, white shoes, and purse...Easter called for accessories too. Those were the days it really mattered to dress in your best to enter God's house. One favorite shopping memory was the year I got a lavender heather wool coat. I hated growing out of that coat- and that tradition as a matter of fact.

I have a memory of church during Easter as a grown up, which I recall ever since I first experienced it. As usual, it popped in my head this morning.

St. Patrick, Wadsworth IL (The old church)
It was during the first leg of many moves to come, only after 3 or 4 years of marriage. We were living in a far Northern suburb of Chicago, after our 3rd move. The church we attended was built by the farming settlers in the1800's. It was a white church with a steeple just as you would think of a church with one row of pews on either side of the aisle and an ornate marble altar framed with Mary and Joseph on either side. A Catholic church of white clapboard not brick and mortar. I think it was a mix of intimate architecture, spiritually dedicated mixed-aged parishioners, and the pastor that gave that church remarkable life. For some reason many sermons have stayed with me to this day, more than most other church services I have attended. But it is the Paschal Triduum of three days from Holy Thursday evening to Easter Day that were remarkably emotional memories there.

Like at Christmas, there was a small scenery of figurines put out to the side. Every reading made you sad and you could look at that table of figures and wonder what were they thinking (!) as you listened to the Gospel. The chancel was cleared of its dressings as typical of the solemness of the faith and a white drape hid the giant crucifix hanging behind the altar. The song lyrics were visual and very emotional for me as they are to this day. But on Saturday evening just as the Easter vigil was beginning, the white drape covering the cross was gently pulled down - and there where the Savior should be.... was completely 'replaced' by a blanket of real white flowers. It was so remarkable!

I remember that feeling of expecting to see Him on the cross, but of course He was no longer there- what was there now were those beautiful flowers- a reflection of Him being given New Life.

I wish I could pull the picture from my mind to share with you the enormousness of that blanket of snow white flowers hanging above the altar- and share that feeling both of surprise- amazement-joy that I felt in seeing that display- that expression of faith.  After feeling so depressed in that place for two days before; and now to feel such joy revealed. I relive it and feel it each Easter. I have not had that experience repeated. I am so grateful to that parish for giving me that memory- that feeling - to carry with me- for reliving every Easter.

The following year in that Parish, we built a bigger church behind the white church. The town was growing with many young families and the little church could no longer sustain us all. They could not duplicate that Easter event in the new modern big glass church. I became a cantor and choir member to better embrace the services. On Good Friday the first year in the new church they added the sound of hammering nails into wood from the loft overlooking the congregation during the verses of the song, Were You There, which made it nearly impossible to sing- with or without tears in a candlelit church.
St. Patrick (The new church)

When I became a mother I started celebrations for my daughter's Easter memories..both embracing the faith of the events and yes ingredients of the commercialism for innocents sake. Baking resurrection cookies, opening Holy week eggs  (an egg carton filled with a dozen plastic eggs, each containing a symbol and explanation of the Holy Week) , Easter trees with ornaments, egg decorating, brunch and egg hunt. One childhood memory my mom did for my sister and I was to hide our basket  in a maze of string through the lower level of our house. We had to follow various strings to find the gifts. It was so fun that I repeated that experience for my teen daughter when we moved to Arizona. We even took a Sugar Egg class to learn how to make and decorate panoramic eggs like I recall from my childhood. Sadly I don't think she has had the emotional Easter experience yet. But then I didn't experience mine until my 20's. It will find her too.

This year we are celebrating apart. So, hopefully the memories and our faith will do the job of drawing us together for this day. I do miss her though.

Happy Easter Dear Friends and Family - He is Risen - Rejoice in the Day.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

A Little Bird with Big Surprises!

Last year my daughter acknowledged my birthday by sharing the traditions she and her friends enjoy for their birthdays. Decorating the house with a maze of streamers and painting the car with window paints of wishes are two favorites. She even gifted me with my age displayed on the car...that infinite "29".  She really went all out making me feel very appreciated.

College would separate us this year, however. This year was a milestone for me and I was dreading not being with her. However, she outdid herself!

When she departed for school after winter break, she knew she would be back in a few weeks...but I didn't. She had already planned to return not wanting me to celebrate my big day without her. I had actually planned on not even acknowledging the day.

Before she left for school she cashed enough summer checks to purchase a few Visa gift cards. When she discovered the Airlines website would not redeem multiple gift cards for one ticket, she then used them to buy  Airlines gift cards which could be redeemed for a ticket. This way I would never see a charge for airfare appear on my card. She secured her tickets and anxiously waited for her return date.

However,  Mother Nature had some surprises for her. Her college town in the Midwest was hit hard with snow. Nothing resembling a delivery truck or even cab was running. The night before departure she dialed the airlines on her phone hourly, feverishly checking the flight schedules. Her roommates were not at all silent about their lack of confidence in her flight leaving. She was resolved. "Oh, I AM going," she would snort at them. Finally at nearly 2 am she scored a flight to take her home. Next obstacle was how to get to the airport...and the fact that her flight would be canceled by the time she got there.

Not wanting to wake too many people she finally called a dorm friend she knew had a truck. Not  so surprising by now, the truck would not start, so after some debate she begrudgingly asked her suite-mate who willingly offered to brave the elements to get her to the airport.

At the airport she overheard a gentleman attempting to get on an alternate flight, having been previously booked on the same canceled flight as she. Thanks to his conversation, the gentleman and she were the last travelers to leave that airport before it closed due to the weather.

My mom  and sister's part in the plan was to pick her up at the airport in Phoenix to bring her home that evening.  After a very long work day, and dreading the acknowledgment of my birthday I arrived home. The pizza man was leaving and upon entering my kitchen, I was greeted by streamers and balloons and family. And my biggest surprise was my beautiful collegiate, standing behind me. I could not believe she was there. I had known about the terrible weather she came from and truly could not believe how she was standing there. Love got her home.

So now my dread of that BIG birthday is only a memory of one of the sweetest gifts of love I have ever been given for a birthday. Equally I will forever be forced to regale with delight the tale of hurdles she conquered to share my day to make my birthday special. My daughter; so determined and resourceful. What other life surprises do you have up your sleeve?

I am blessed.
(penned in February....)