The flowers are in full bloom

Published 8:09 pm Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The two boys stood awkwardly in their black suits.

The taller one was slim and slew-footed. The younger had a grin and big ears. Their younger sister was in a dress full of ruffles and had a head full of curls.

The backdrop was a huge azalea bush, full of blooms that were purple in color. Occasionally, a cocker spaniel would join the picture.

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This was Easter when I was a small child growing up. We always had to get ready for church early so that we could go to my grandparent’s house to take pictures. They had a more expensive camera that took better photos, probably the equivalent of a cheap digital camera today.

The azalea bush seemed to cooperate by being in full bloom for Easter. We always seemed to pose in the same position, with the same smiles on our faces. The sun would be in our faces just enough to cause us to squint while we were squirming.

My brother and I would sometimes be wearing new clothes, but more often he would be wearing the latest suit that I had outgrown and I would be wearing the suit that no longer fit my older cousin, Bob. My sister, as the first granddaughter in the family, always had a new dress. My grandfather delighted in purchasing the dress with the most frills and lace that he could find.

We would have already hunted eggs several times by the time we got dressed. Our baskets would be filled with nothing but boiled eggs decorated in a variety of colors. As we got older we would help decorate the eggs the night before, trying to get fancy by putting half the egg in one color and half in another.

We would hunt the eggs over and over until the shells would begin to crack. Then we would start to eat them, beginning a life long love affair for me with boiled eggs. We would eat them into the late evening without refrigeration and never once got sick. A health inspector today would certainly fail any restaurant that held eggs for so long. He never had as much fun as we did.

Catherine was the first great-granddaughter and my grandfather delighted in buying her the dress with the most frills and lace. We have a picture of them that first Easter. The stoic grin on his face was the same as it was with my own sister.

Elizabeth cooperated with everything but the Easter bonnet. Taking a picture of her with that white hat was one of the great challenges of our early parenting.

Most of my children’s early Easter pictures are in our yard in front of yet another azalea bush. It was always full of blooms that were purple in color. Occasionally Bud, my second great dog, would be in the picture.

Having no older cousins, they always had a new Easter dress. The dresses usually matched. The girls would hunt plastic eggs, often full of money or candy. They weren’t very partial to the Easter Bunny that now appeared at church or other Easter egg hunts.

The Easter bunny filled their baskets until they were married with children. The bunny now has discovered a new generation, Henry and Laura. Henry is still a bit afraid of the Easter Bunny, although it was his own mother that filled the suit at the library last week. He loves hunting eggs though, especially those that might have a nickel or a dime inside.

This will be Laura’s first Easter. She is the first granddaughter and first great-granddaughter of her generation. I hope that she will wear a frilly dress full of lace and paid for by her Granddaddy.

The difference is that this Granddaddy will be the slew-footed boy with the shy grin in the pictures taken many years ago. The azaleas will not be blooming for Easter, but in their place is the most amazing display of tulips I have ever seen.

Humans are the only species that pass memories from generation to generation, even though they didn’t know each other. Through our written word, our oral histories and our collective memories we pass along traditions that survive over time.

My grandchildren both have the name of family they never knew. They will stand in front of azalea bushes without ever really knowing why. They will follow traditions at holidays that were established by family members a hundred years ago. They will eat watermelon at Compass Lake on the 4th of July, eat turkey on Thanksgiving, and eat cheese grits on Christmas morning.

On Easter morning, I would sit on the same pew with my parents and grandfather. My grandmother would be in the choir. More than any Sunday, the church would be full. Mr. Calhoun, who owned the dime store, would once again rattle the huge amount of change in his pocket during a prayer.

Mr. Killingsworth would pray softly with the only audible sound being the whistles that he made when he said a word with the letter “s.” The gentleman that would be sitting in the back row on the left would be wearing overalls. He only came once a year. I never knew his name.

Mr. Woodham would be sitting in the tenor section of the choir and would go to sleep right after the choir sang their special music.

God was there just as He will be here on this Easter. He will be there when my grandchildren have long forgotten the events of their own childhood. The traditions and memories of Easter intersect with the promises of the resurrection. It is no wonder that the flowers are in full bloom.