I have fond memories of Easter. Even secular households in the Bible Belt South learn to embrace the evangelical rhythms of spring, and my family was no exception. We would die the eggs and hide them in backyard, for just me, the only child, to find. I’d get a basket of goodies (I remember I never liked the giant chocolate bunnies, though they seem like a delightful extravagance.) Easter lunch meant egg salad, the occasional bite tinged purple or pink, having been made from the colored eggs.
Other years we ventured to church, if only for the family-style lunch that followed at Uncle Ray’s house. Then I learned about Easter ham, and Sister Schubert rolls, plates piled high and tables crowded with family and friends. I squirmed through the service, not knowing the words or the tunes and not believing.
At fourteen, I was born again, and Easter meant something more. My dad, a notorious late sleeper, drove me to a sunrise service. I remember it was always chillier than the floral sundresses we donned would have indicated. A tableau on the church lawn under a grey sky, and then we piled onto the buses bound for Cracker Barrel. Big breakfast, a nap on the youth room couch, and then the sanctuary service. I loved the swelling verses of Christ the Lord is risen today, Alleluia Amen. We only sang it that one day of the year, even though its truth carried us through the rest of the days.
We were married on the Saturday following an Easter, which also coincided with my dad’s birthday that year. Our guests kept asking whether our wedding date was on Easter weekend–no ma’am, we’re in the South, the church wouldn’t let us do that! The flowers outside the church had exploded into bloom, as if resurrecting themselves in celebration of our union–Allelulia, Amen.
The first Easter we were in Atlanta, I felt drawn to open my home as others had before to me, and we invited in some transplants like us. I made Easter baskets for everyone and cooked way too much food. It felt over-the-top but also just right.
And then I broke with the church, and Easter was a somber day. I awoke with Christ the Lord is risen today in my heart, and I couldn’t stop myself reading the onslaught of social media posts from my friends who still blithely believed. I didn’t buy the resurrection story anymore, and it broke my heart.
So I began making attempts to mask the sadness, reverting back to the secular version of celebrating–food and friends and conversation. I cooked the ham and bought the jelly beans. It felt better than wallowing in my sadness and unbelief. I believe in the trappings of religion, and I miss them, those markings of the passage of time.
Easter is coming again. It was early last year, and I imagined the scurry of women pulling out cardigans and scarves to layer over their celebratory garb, little girls wailing their feet are cold in their brand-new white sandals, family photos with a steely sky in the background. This year it is later, and we’ll have people over for brunch in the sunshine, and drink mimosas, and I will make too much food again, because that’s what I do.
I could write a trite tale of Easter coming again in my heart, but that wouldn’t be true. Chris the Lord is risen today ends with a question mark these days. But I do feel the resurrection of spring coming, the sun returning to bronze my winter-paled arms, the grass sprouting up greenly, flowering trees dropping petals like rain over parked cars. I have new rhythms these days. I open the windows with an Allelulia, Amen on my lips. Easter is coming.