Easter 1991 was the worst Easter of my life. It was also what I like to think of as my first grown-up holiday on my own. I had my first real job and I was living in my very own apartment. Though I had made the eight-hour drive home to see my family at Thanksgiving and again at Christmas, my plan was to spend Easter with a co-worker and her family. My friend and I drove the hour and a half to her parents’ house, had Easter dinner & then completed the round trip back in time to go to work in the morning & not use a precious vacation day.
I remember calling my mom when I got back to my apartment and telling her about the Easter I had celebrated with my friend and her family. The family was very nice, but I was feeling just so sad and I really couldn’t articulate why. My mom asked what they had served for dinner and I said, “Ham, mashed potatoes and corn.” And then I started sobbing and said, “There were no green beans.” Admittedly, the lack of green beans shouldn’t move someone to tears…especially yours truly, a person who doesn’t even LIKE green beans.
What I later realized was that my tears were about the lack of the familiar. All of the traditions I had grown up with and taken such comfort in were nowhere to be found. The Easter Bunny did not visit me. I did not have any of my grandmother’s home baked Paska. And my hosts, though gracious, made a meal nothing like the one I had come to expect every Easter…never mind the missing haricot vert, where was the little engraved glass tray with the olives and celery sticks????
After four job/school-related moves in seven years, I learned if I wanted holiday traditions I was going to have to create my own…or forever schlepp back to NJ to celebrate. And so I did…I started hosting Easter dinners with menus more similar to what I enjoyed growing up. I made Easter baskets for close friends. I learned that Peeps weren’t just for eating, they were for decorating as well.
After I married and had a family of my own, I realized I had the opportunity to create traditions for my kids. The Easter bins are pulled out of storage in the garage & we decorate the house. Last year, as we were figuring out where to put the giant Mr. & Mrs. Bunny Rabbit, my then eight-year old daughter said, “It’s like we’re seeing old friends we haven’t seen in a while.” The Easter Bunny is kind enough to visit our house, but he also has followed us out of town. (As you know, the Easter Bunny can be funny. In one often-revisited memory, one year we opened up the microwave and found an egg-laying chicken!) We not only do an Easter egg hunt, we do MANY egg hunts. I learned early on that the excitement was about finding the eggs, not about the treats inside.
Since our extended families live across the country, these traditions have taken on even greater importance and have played an integral role in what my kids know as how we spend Easter. While we don’t have a special glass tray for olives, and there’s never a guarantee of green beans, these traditions are ours and that makes my Easter very, very happy.