“I wanted a perfect ending. Now I've learned, the hard way, that some poems don't rhyme, and some stories don't have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what's going to happen next. Delicious Ambiguity.”Gilda Radner

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Butter Lambs and Easter Baskets

Easter has never been my favorite holiday. On a certain level, I feel a little bad about it, because as a Catholic I'm supposed to feel extra reverent and know this is the most important day of the days, but I've always found it a little disappointing. Perhaps it's because I live in Buffalo, and the weather is rarely as nice as they show it on TV, or maybe it's because when I was little my brother and sister kept moving my hidden Easter basket on me every time I got close so I could never actually find it. (Isn't that mean? Don't you feel sorry for me?)

Today my husband Joe is taking our boys to have their Easter baskets blessed. I'm not sure if this a Catholic thing, or if it's just a Polish Catholic thing. Though Joe and I both did this as children (with our Polish grandmothers), we've never done it before with our own kids. In fact, I was really surprised when he told me he wanted to. Like...really? You want to go to church an extra time and take the boys? And then, there was another thing.

When he told me, I leaned over and whispered, "But won't the baskets be empty? Because, you know, the Easter Bunny won't have come yet?" I threw in a lot of winks and nudges, too. Because I'm subtle like that.

Joe just rolled his eyes, which means there were about fourteen different times that I had to lean over and whisper, "But won't the baskets be EMPTY?" See how "empty" had to be capitalized that time? Every time I had to ask again without receiving a proper answer, I became a little more nervous. Of all the things about having children, reviving the magic has been the most fun. I was terrified Joe might be considering killing that.

The thing is, when I was a little girl and my grandmother took my brother, sister, and me to have our baskets blessed, we didn't bring our own baskets from home. (Because they would be empty while we prepared for the arrival of E.B.--duh.) Rather, my grandmother had three baskets she kept at her house for the three of us, and which she gladly filled up with goodies ahead of time. It was actually really exciting, because we'd get to see our treats but not have them. That kind of suspense is so intense she probably could have filled the baskets with a pack of looseleaf paper instead of the chocolate bunnies and jelly bean and foiled eggs she was always sure to include, and we would have been equally excited.

But I'm pretty sure that my kids have to bring their own baskets today, and maybe it was my pregnant brain, but I couldn't seem to figure out how this was all going to work, other than the kids walking into church to have empty baskets blessed.

"No," Joe finally said this morning. "We'll put stuff in them."

"Like what?" I asked, horrified that my worst fear was confirmed.

"Like...the colored eggs. And maybe a butter lamb."

"A butter lamb?" I repeated. I couldn't help it. Thanks, Joe, for reaffirming for me how lame Easter can be. "Here kids, here you go, here's your very own butter."

"You don't get it, do you?" he said then. "It's all part of the tradition."

And it struck me. When I was little, my grandma gave me chocolate and goodies. We got all dressed up in our Easter clothes, went to the chapel in the basement of Our Lady of Victory Basilica, and sat very quietly while staring into baskets filled with treats we couldn't have. Afterward, she took us to the Botanical Gardens to see the Easter Bunny. Church aside, the whole thing was magic for me. It was a way of building up and getting more excited for the holiday. It was spending a special day with my grandmother, a person we really, really love and were close to as children. No matter what Buffalo's weather was, inside the Botanical Gardens we took off our coats and ran through rows and rows of spring flowers and forgot winter and took off to find the Easter Bunny. No wonder Easter is so disappointing for me now. We haven't gone with Grandma for a long, long time. (It all ended on the fateful day of the Horse and Carriage Ride That Never Happened, a story for another blog.)

Maybe this all started as a Polish custom, but in the end, every family really creates and recreates their own traditions. It doesn't have to follow a definition, it just has to be something special your children will remember doing with you year after year. I guess the kids probably could bring empty baskets, if that's what we chose, and they'd never realize there was anything weird about it. But, alas. Apparently, they're getting butter lambs.

Noah in a wig? Nope. That's me at my Grandma's when I was Noah's age, peeking in my basket.

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