In 2000, my husband and I purchased a croquet. The movie, Heathers, influenced me to buy it because I totally wanted to swing the mallet around and quote lines from the movie like, “No way, no day,” but no matter. That croquet set became part of our Easter tradition and has remained so, even during the pandemic of 2020. My boys disliked every other tradition that I tried to hold onto, but still I’d fight to keep them. This year I let the traditions go; no one complained. So, it seems that the pandemic just allowed my family to embrace who they really are.
This year’s Western resurrection Sunday for my family didn’t include baskets or chocolate bunnies, colored eggs or homemade food, a family photo or a pinata and no church service. The only tradition that made it into our day was that croquet set.
The cracking of paper-filled eggs on someone’s never-fully-prepared head was unavoidable for a Mexican American girl growing up in San Antonio, TX. I’m not gonna lie and say it was the best. Someone always smacked me too hard or stepped on my foot or elbowed me in the face or took an egg from my basket. I believed that when I got older this part of Easter would be better. If I made the rules, then everyone would have fun. Wrong!
My husband didn’t want the shells and the confetti ruining the grass. The boys didn’t like the pain inflicted on their heads, mainly from their uncle! What? I thought I fixed that problem! When they all stopped participating in this Easter finale, it forced me to examine my thoughts about the ritual. After careful contemplation (writing this blog post), I can articulate my feelings. I care about the eggs themselves, but not for their demise. It was seeing those dozens and dozens of colored eggs stacked up on a chair in my grandma’s living room that brought me joy and excitement. They made me anticipate Easter, and they still do.
The cartons supplied with cascarones were the result of the combined effort of my grandma, who saved egg shells throughout the entire year, and the rest of us (kids and aunts). We gathered a week before Easter to color them. Our fingers would get pruney, and our backs would hurt from sitting for so long. But those eggs were color and sunshine to me, so I didn’t mind. Yet, once the confetti eggs were cracked, I felt sad. Only the head pain and the confetti stuck to my skin were left. So after years of fighting to keep the tradition that began with saving the empty shells like my grandma did and ended with crazy people running around hitting siblings and cousins on the head with them, I let the tradition go.
Nothing is ever the same when I’m the cook. The entree is always different. The dessert is another gluten-free, dairy-free attempt at something I can eat but that everyone will enjoy. All this could be because I hate cooking. That’s probably it. Actually, I KNOW that’s it, but I’ll move on with my story.
Every holiday I look for something to inspire me to want to cook it. Without fail, I have a whole list of things I’m planning to make along with all the ingredients piled into the pantry and the fridge. Then it happens: I’m organizing activities, holding conversations, keeping order in the kitchen, and being the cook, and I’m done. I hit a wall: the kitchen wall. Honestly, I’ve had some embarrassing collisions. No one brings them up unless I do. They’re all still traumatized.
The women in my family modeled something completely different to me, of course. None of those woman hit the kitchen wall–ever. And they all made the same Easter foods ever year. My grandmother on my mother’s side always made a bunny cake with coconut. My grandma on my father’s side always barbecued. My aunts on both sides helped their mothers in the kitchen to make side items. You could count on those things.
Yet, no food has ever made it twice to my Easter table. It’s always been different. One year, for example, I read an article in the Magnolia Journal about various tacos. So, I decided to make three kinds–shrimp (from a Martha Stewart recipe), beef (from a recipe I got in Women’s Day) and vegetarian for my niece (from All recipes.com). My motto is: always different, always new.
The pandemic forced me to finally make a good decision about our meal: we’d order take-out. There was no reason to try to get inspired or look at my recipes (okay, I did do that), or to try to purchase hard-to-find ingredients when a basic necessity like toilet paper is so hard to get. Most restaurants were still opened, so I chose Fuddruckers for our meal. A good hamburger is a delicacy. Cooking burgers for 6 adults takes a lot of meat and condiments and side item decisions. Plus, tons of grease and mess to clean up. I hate clean-up more than I hate cooking!
Throughout the day, I continued to pat myself on the back for my brilliant idea. But then it happened–when we tried to order the delectable burgers, the place was shut down! I started arguing with my husband because we couldn’t agree on what plan B was. Then we barely got our order in before plan B closed. We ate an hour and a half later than planned. Can you guess what happened before I downed that gluten-free, dairy-free burger! I hit the kitchen wall again! I thought for sure this year would be different. Deep breaths. Baby steps.
We only have a few family photos. Getting those was like, . . . well, I’d like to come up with something different from “like pulling teeth”. You know what, forget that. I don’t need a simile or an analogy. I’ll just tell you plain: the only way to get my family members to pose for a picture is to lay on the guilt. Since I had declared this a guilt free day, there was no way that this family was gonna pose for an Easter pandemic photo. I couldn’t even get them in the same room until the food arrived. Forcing everyone to gather for a photo would have been, . . . actually it would have been just like it was at Christmas this past year–no one wanting to stand next to each other. This family was social distancing even then!
Take note: the only pictures I took were of the croquet set and of the chrysanthemums I had on the porch.
This Easter was new for us. No one was obligated to participate in any part of the day. Not one person had to feign gratitude for what the Easter bunny (mom and dad) had brought them. Only my husband and I watched two Easter services on-line (because I just needed a little more Jesus). Some of us played croquet in the backyard that was still soaked from all the rain the night before. All of us ate Mighty Fine Burgers for dinner instead of Fuddruckers. None of us had any special sweet treats, and I didn’t make a dessert. There was not one colored or hard-boiled or deviled egg in the place. Two of us watched an hour and a half of the 3hr. and 40 minute version of The Ten Commandments. It worked out just fine.
Overall, I’d say it was the best Easter celebration my family has ever had. I won’t forget the lessons I learned during this pandemic. I’m already getting a vision for next year. I’ll fill a basket for myself and set it out on the doorstep. I’ll order some gluten and dairy-free cupcakes for myself from an Austin bakery that I love. I’ll dress up like Heather #1 and play croquet. I’ll use cascarones as my decor so I can enjoy their colors. And I’ll make double-triple sure that the restaurant I choose is actually opened on that day!