Spring is slow in coming this year. I sit in the living room early in the morning, early April. Out the window I see blue sky, bright sun. It looks warm but the furnace was on when I got up, there’s frost on the grass, and the rhododendron leaves were curled as they are after chilly nights. The first days of April have been marked by repeated snow, cold winds. This is often the way.
Easter ushered in this wintry pattern. Easter Sunday, I met a friend for a walk under gray skies. Walking and talking with a long time friend seemed like the perfect way to acknowledge the day. I’m never quite sure how to celebrate Easter but always feel the pull to do so. I’m not religious, don’t go to church, but there’s something deeply rooted in me that wants to pause, praise, celebrate. A human need to mark the seasonal shift, celebrate the return of sun and warmth, mark the season of growth and rejuvenation.
And there’s also a pull to tradition. I grew up with new Easter clothes, church, Easter dinner. The first year I lived in my house, the house I bought a few months after my mom died, I invited friends for Easter dinner. Not only was it Easter but also my mother’s birthday, April 3rd. I served the meal on my new dining table, placed near the picture window looking out on the back garden.
I set the table with my grandmother’s china that I’d brought back from my mother’s house, fine china, white porcelain with tiny sprigs of pink roses. I bought a pink tablecloth to use with the china, used the sterling I’d also brought from mom’s house. I don’t remember what we ate, I just remember the table set with china and silver, set with nostalgia, set with continuity and memory.
But there was also some way in which that dinner felt like playing dress up. That Easter dinner, with the formal place settings, morphed in subsequent years to a more casual Easter brunch, often on my back porch, glassed in for the spring season, heated with a space heater and guests warned to wear sweaters. This was a potluck meal, served on my everyday stoneware that I bought in a discount store when I tired of eating off of mismatched plates left behind by roommates.
The brunch tradition lasted for a number of years and then ended as people’s lives moved in different directions. Since then I’ve found different ways to mark the new season. Many years I go to a friend’s Passover seder—I appreciate the ceremonial meal, the connection with friends, the deep joy I know my friend feels as he brings friends and family together. A few years I’ve joined another friend for Easter services at a monastery in Vermont. And often all I need is an hour or two raking in the garden, a walk with a friend, a trip to Andrew’s Greenhouse to buy flats of their field grown pansies, which I plant in pots and place by the front door.