Stumps, Day 1
I was raised Catholic. Very Catholic. My sister and I attended St. Francis de Sales Catholic elementary school in Lebanon, Ohio — and my mother, sister and I went to Mass every Sunday (dad stayed home and took advantage of really the only free hour he had to himself all week). My mother was also raised Catholic, going to church every Sunday with her two sisters and their father (conversely, her mother, my grandmother, abstained from attending mass). My mother’s father initially converted to Catholicism when he was serving in the South Pacific during World War 2. A lifelong Presbyterian from a long line of Presbyterians when he enlisted, he saw that the Catholic boys were handling the blood and the death and the slaughter better than the Protestant boys, so on some weekday morning on some lonely atoll in the middle of the ocean, he converted. The sun on his neck; God’s first church in his heart.
When he returned from the war, he went to work, raised a family … and drank. But he also went to church, driving his big old boat of a Buick down the cobblestone hills of the coal black town of Pomeroy, Ohio. Every Sunday without fail. His faith was deep and strong, and he was immensely proud of his Catholicism. Decades later when my sister — his granddaughter — was confirmed in the Catholic Church he called it the proudest moment of his life. This is a man who saw the flag raising on Iwo Jima.
And so, being Catholic, Easter Sunday was a big deal growing up in that little one-story house on Hoffmann Avenue. We went to mass, of course, and were forced to dress a little nicer than usual: a spring dress for my sister, jackets and ties for my brother and me. But despite my mother’s devoutness, we also celebrated the more, er, Pagan side of the holiday. We colored hardboiled eggs with that little Paas kit and my parent’s would hide them throughout the house and yard, and we were given Easter baskets full of candy and hollow chocolate rabbits.
My sister adored Easter. I really don’t know why, but it was most definitely her favorite holiday — even more so than Christmas — and I think it had something to do with the basket full of chocolate we would receive. That’s my best guess anyway. My parents would put out our baskets in the living room after we would go to bed, so we would be surprised by them in the morning — the myth was that the Easter Bunny, similar to Santa Claus’s M.O., would deliver the baskets at night while the good little Christians with middle class parents slept in soft beds.
One Easter Sunday my sister was more excited than in previous years, and in her excitement she got me up way too early to go out to the living room and find our Easter baskets. In previous years, just like Christmas, 6am or so would have been reasonable, but it was far earlier than that. She dragged me out the living room and there were our baskets and she was so excited — I can still see the excitement in her eyes and hear the joy in her voice. Unfortunately, we had woken our parents up. After a few minutes my dad came out to the living room — clad in just a pair of Fruit-of-the-Loom briefs — and told us to back to damn bed, that it was three o’clock in the damn morning. I was scared, my sister was heartbroken, but we did as we were told.
Later we rose at a decent hour, rediscovered our Easter baskets full of chocolate, dressed in our nice clothes, attended Mass, came back home, hunted for Easter eggs, and had a lunch of egg salad on white bread at the kitchen table — the bright Ohio spring sun streaming into our windows. All in all, it was a perfect little Easter in our little house for our little family, despite its unfortunate start.
I have since lost touch with my Catholic upbringing. I no longer attend Mass and honestly have no desire to. And while I don’t believe in the basic tenets of Catholicism — that Christ was the son of God … etc. — I still consider myself a Catholic. But when Easter rolls around, I don’t think of Christ on the cross or chocolate rabbits or egg hunts, I instead think of my sister, and the excitement in her eyes that one morning all those years ago, of my father in his briefs quashing that joy, and the joy rising again later in the day — and I think of the lightness in my sister’s voice, sitting at the kitchen table, looking out into our backyard, eating her egg salad sandwich, all the morning’s disappointment long since forgotten.