Some years ago this paper asked about holiday traditions, be it Christmas or Easter, I do not remember, or it may well have been a theme through the seasons.
I had little to offer, no recipes handed down over generations, carried from Europe in someone’s head or on a carefully folded slip of paper. It was one of those exercises which always made my childhood feel woefully lacking, without that particular plum pudding or ring of candles, there was little beyond my mother hosting Thanksgiving and, my aunt, Christmas dinner. We cut our own tree for a few years, when the spruce trees my uncle had planted after the war were not yet too large and misshapened by the wind.
I truly have no memory of a fuss over Easter clothes until junior high, and that prompted by new students for whom it was an expectation. We always dressed up for Sunday School and the weather in the spring was so iffy my ever-practical mother probably deemed it an unnecessary luxury.
We did buy eggs. It is one of those things I’ve always known but was a floating bit of memory, one of those clouds that just drifts around the sky, removed from us until they turn to rain we can feel.
We bought eggs to color because we had hens, and the local eggs they provided were brown. It hit me, all these decades later, while I was peeling dark shells away from hard boiled whites, that that was our singular Easter tradition, store-bought eggs.
I’ve made deviled eggs other years, an easy perennial favorite of Harbor Church collations — yes, it’s a real word, not some Block Island invention, in the dictionary “a light meal; originally such a meal was served in a monastery during the reading of a collation.” They are the one item that always goes quickly, even in the lowest Sundays of late winter there seem never to be too many deviled eggs.
Usually I am focused on removing the shell without taking chunks of white, and that childhood memory might not have fallen into place this year but for the handwritten sign in the market, designating the white “Easter” eggs, the ones that will take dye, the simple monochromatic dipping or the fanciful waxing and coloring, layer by layer.
It was the process that was important, there was no hiding of eggs at our house; our parents put out little piles of jelly beans and, if it had not been too hard a winter, some chocolate bunny. In retrospect, I am not even sure why we colored eggs, other than it was what was done before Easter. Our refrigerator had in the door a row of egg-shaped indentations, and there the purple and blue and green and yellow product of an afternoon’s work sat, demanding to be eaten.
We weren’t a family of egg salad or hard boiled eggs; having to eat the darn things added that essential layer of New England gray to any festive air the row of color might otherwise have provided. We also knew they came from the store and were white beneath the dye and probably somewhere in my head remained suspect.
Easter came late this year and, with that timing, sunrise came earlier. The forecast was not good but I was hopeful when I last looked out in the earliest morning hours, those we consider night, and saw the lights of the harbor where there had been only layers of faint moonlight, diffused by thick fog and rain. I reset my alarm, adding a layer an hour earlier than my rarely used earliest time.
It has been several years since I have missed Sunrise Service, be it the actual event or helping in the kitchen. Last year I went out in the dark to assist and found something quite wonderful in moving through a sleeping island.
When that first alarm went off it was just too gray, too drear, and too early. And I still had those darn peeled eggs to split, yolks to remove and mix and refill. Oddly, I never went back to sleep. Nor did the sun make a miracle of an appearance.
I went out and picked a bunch of daffodils, thankfully bloomed late in the cool, gray spring, still good at Easter, although some were almost on the ground, beaten by the rains, and others had petals tinged with age. The grass was thick and wet, my feet in my oldest sneakers were soon soaked, but the land was clean and I knew eventually the sun would shine. The air was still and the earth sang, the surf raging on the beach, the stones rolling in the water competing with the voices of the morning birds. In the greening pasture the horses, dirty from blissful rolling, quickly dismissed my presence, waiting for someone who would feed them.
The day was wonderful, everything Easter is supposed to be, despite the drear that stretched into the afternoon. The choir soared, morning worship was a celebration and fellowship abounded.
The sun did come out, finally, in the afternoon, the blessed, drying sun so welcome after a stretch of rainy damp. Everywhere the end of day was as glorious as its start had been subdued. The sky filled with color, the ocean to the west reflecting the multi-hued clouds. Here, when the sun drops below the tree line, hurrying the sundown, the low places that had been wet then warm were already cooling as they fell into shadow, and sending white mist floating above them.
Finally, it is midweek and the ocean is blue, the line of the horizon clean and sharp, the sun turning the plain sand on the inside of the east wall of the harbor a pale that can appear almost white at a distance. Forsythia petals, beaten by the wind and rain, are scattering, some daffodils budding as others die.
In a week we will welcome May and shad and, hopefully, sunshine.