EASTER, THEN AND NOW
One of my prize possessions is a photograph of my father and mother and me that was taken on Easter Sunday, 1956. I was 4 years old.
Mom and Dad and I are standing in our driveway by our Ford Fairlane about to head to church. Dad is wearing his navy blue preacher’s suit that he wore every Sunday. He is clutching his Bible in his right hand.
Mom is in a beautiful Easter dress, complete with a hat. She is wearing an Easter corsage, the same type corsage Dad gave her every Easter Sunday morning.
I am dressed in a little white dinner jacket with a white shirt, black tie, black trousers and white shoes. I look like a tiny Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca. (Here’s looking at you, kid!)
While I have no specific recollection of that Easter, I am confident it went exactly like every Easter of my childhood. At church the pews were packed.
The deacons even had to bring in folding chairs to accommodate the overflow crowd. The capacity attendance was due to the presence of the Easter-Christmas Christians, the efficient ones who came to church only twice a year – Easter Sunday and Christmas Eve.
My dad welcomed them with the same joke he told every Easter. “We are so happy to see all of you today. We will be back here next week for another worship service, and I am sure all of you are going to join us.” The line was always greeted with laughter.
After the worship service, we would go to my grandmother’s house for Easter Sunday dinner. There we were joined by uncles, aunts, and about a million cousins.
Grandmother fixed the same Easter dinner every year: roast beef, potatoes, carrots, biscuits, and for dessert chocolate cake or banana pudding, or both.
After we stuffed ourselves, Grandmother would hand out Easter baskets to all of her grandchildren. She would then line us up in her driveway and shout, “ready, set, go!” At this point my cousins and I would make a mad dash through her yard, frantically searching for colorful Easter eggs she had hit in her shrubbery, tree trunks, and flowers around her house. We chased and fought for those Easter eggs as if it were a gold rush.
I also recall getting presents on Easter Sunday, usually a chocolate bunny. But one Easter, I got a real bunny. On another Easter, I got a duck, and on another Easter, I got a chicken. My parents bought all these animals at the pet department at Sears Crosstown. They lived for years in our family zoo in our backyard.
Those Easter Sundays of my childhood were the same year after year after year, thank God.
That Easter era came to an end for me the year I went off to college. At that point, I became an Easter-Christmas Christian myself, attending church only twice a year. I continued to be an Easter-Christmas Christian after graduating from college and law school, and becoming a grown-up, or at least I thought I was one.
And then I went back to church on a day that was neither Easter nor Christmas. It was the day I got married. Not long after I said “I do,” my bride told me we were going to find us a “church home”, and I said, “I will.”
We then joined Calvary Episcopal Church in downtown Memphis, and I began to find myself in church more often than twice a year.
I have spent the past 38 Easter Sundays worshiping at Calvary Church. The Easter services have always been magnificent. The Altar has been decorated with beautiful flowers, thanks to my wife and her sisters on the Flower Guild.
The music from the choir has been absolutely beautiful.
Our rector has always preached an “A” game sermon. No doubt about it, on Easter Sunday at Calvary Episcopal Church, we have always gotten our offerings-worth.
But this Sunday I will not be in the sanctuary of Calvary Church. I will be sitting at my kitchen table beside my wife, as we watch the service on-line on her laptop. After the service my wife and I will prepare an Easter brunch in our kitchen.
I am hoping that before Sunday morning I will be able to find some flowers and a chocolate bunny as I don a mask and wear gloves and venture into a nearby grocery store.
At some point on Sunday morning, I will quietly say a pray expressing my thanks for the 68 Easter Sundays I have experienced in life. I will also pray that next Easter Sunday, my wife and I will be back in the sanctuary of Calvary Episcopal Church with my brothers and sisters.
Until then, a blessed Easter and Pesach to you all.