Every Easter is the same.
We don't talk about the four to five dozen eggs in the fridge that we dye the night before Easter, or why our fingers are stained in shades of purple, brown, black, all the colors blended together. Eggs with their names inscribed. And the names of their lovies. And cartoon drawings of them and their lovies. And us older ones, too. So much time spent on something that is cracked and discarded quickly.
We stay up late filling eggs, unless Mom manages to take the four little ones out and about earlier in the day, while my brother and I stay home with dad to stuff dozens of plastic eggs with jelly beans, robin's eggs, other candies. We must preserve the illusion of the Easter Bunny. It must be perfect.
We wake up early--and dad has woken the little ones already--to hunt for eggs. Eggs within the creases of the couch. Eggs balanced on the phone. Eggs nestled among the knick-knacks, toys, VHS tapes, chair legs. We count the perishable eggs--four dozen minus the one that cracked while boiling, and rush them to the fridge.
We must be perfectly joyful.
Joyful while hunting for eggs. Joyful while eating breakfast. Joyful while getting dressed, even as dad moans about how hot it is in the house at 70 degrees, how hot it will be at church, how so Goddamned hot it is in his church clothes, and we tip toe around him in the kitchen as he gets his breakfast, usually by avoiding the kitchen altogether for fear of getting in his way.
We must be excited for church while dad denigrates the absurdly long songs we must sing, the stupid homilies, and how Goddamned hot it is going to be.
We arrive an hour early. We are the first ones there. We must be perfectly behaved. We walk around with the little ones in the foyer, in the parish hall, nip in and say hi to Mom and her friends while they practice the songs one last time in the music room.
We must all sit, from 1 year old to 17 years old, perfectly still and behave. Are we singing loudly enough? Are we saying the prayers fervently enough? Are the little ones not wiggling? If they wiggle too much, my brother and I get in trouble. We try to mediate dad's anger toward them, encouraging them to sit still to avoid dad grabbing them by their arm as soon as we get home, to be yelled at and spanked.
We coach them on how to behave. We don't want them to hurt the way we've hurt. Our hearts more than our bottoms.
We must be joyful, excited, exuberant about dad toiling away in the Goddamned hot kitchen, with the windows and patio doors wide open on a chilly spring day.
Ham. With fatty bits. I'm old enough now that I can try to dissect the ham to avoid the fatty, gristle bits without getting into too much trouble; just considerable teasing ending with dad taking those bits from my plate and eating them. I stifle a gag. How are those bits edible?
Easter Day, imbued with performance anxiety.
Objectively, Easter is much better now. I don't have to perform for somebody else, everybody else, but my body still tenses up in anticipation, releasing only when I go to bed that night.
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