Friday, April 20, 2012

Easter: Three Birthdays, A Death, and a Resurrection...

One of my favorite holidays ever is Easter.

I know, I know... I should love Christmas, Halloween, etc. And I do. I really do. I mean, I love to celebrate, in general. But, there is just something about Easter to me. I love Baby Jesus and Christmas and hope. But there is just something that pricks my heart about Grown Up Jesus and his death and resurrection that really spell hope out for me. So, to repeat: I love me some Baby Jesus Christmas Goodness. But boy, do I do love Easter. And it's not just Jesus... I have several reasons. Upon careful pondering and querying in my soul, I think it stems from my love for my memories of Easter and how it makes me feel. Excited, confused, loved... Yep, I think that's the main one.


I like feeling loved. I like having attention and feeling appreciated. Very, very appreciated. My grandfather used to chide my grandmother and mother for "petting" me too much and making me "rotten". But like any fairly spoiled child of decades past... while there is the death in my place, and magical resurrection of God's only begotten, let us NOT forget that there are also the material reasons to love Easter. I remember my mother or grandmother making Easter baskets for me. Not just any old basket, no, no, no. No sir. No ma'am. LaNita Henderson Kennedy Hutchinson Roland would never let that do. Not my Momma. MY mother is a total overachiever and she made sure that she had a real basket. Real dried grass. Presents. Candy. Candy of all types and some she even enlisted my grandmother in helping her make. Now, my mother, the hyperachieving, somewhat OCD perfectionist that I not only love, but have come to also respect AND appreciate, didn't use real eggs. No ma'am. Now, we dyed them. Lord, LaNita would set up rows of her "regular use" teacups and coffee cups (not the good cups from her grandmother. No sense in dying her precious bone china just because some Rabbit doesn't like white chicken eggs) filled with pungent vinegar and we would drop little effervescent tablets of dye into them. Sometimes we mixed them. Oh, I wonder if Paas knew the traditions they would be starting with those little tablets, wire egg catchers, and hours of clean up that would ensue. Incidentally, I am an EXCELLENT egg dyer, but my older sister Dawne was always just better. Which made me bitter. She could tie dye eggs. And this was the 80's... There were no fancy ways to do it back then. It was old fashioned and it was intensive work. But she was truly gifted. That bitch never let me have those eggs. She gave them to mere friends and strangers. Common folk, practically. The nerve. Later in life, when we get really old and possible share a Nursing Home Suite... I'll probably try to be the bigger person and share my eggs. OR, I may just trip her and hope her hips hold up!

Eggs. Not only did we spend so much of our time dying those little suckers, we hunted them. There were Easter egg hunts on my grandparents' farm. Which included two barns, 15 acres of pasture and gardens, and horse paddocks, hog pens, and a chicken yard. There were clearly many places to hunt eggs.

There were egg hunts in the big house. Luckily, Mamaw would hide them in places that were less breakable or valuable. This saved my hide on many occasions. There were scavenger egg hunts that were set up to have you find one egg with a prize and a clue to the next egg. Dawne won most of those. She was always taller and smarter than me when we were young. That's because she is so much OLDER than me. That all changed around my mid teen years when I discovered puberty, a deeper voice, and how much a nice pair of eggs could really mean at Easter!! Of couse, with much pomp and circumstance, there were the church egg hunts. There were the neighborhood and community egg hunts. There were big hats, new dresses, pressed khakis, a myriad buffet of pastels and colors found only by combining the most ostentatios and audacious colors in nature. And this was the 80's which made it even more audacious and "colorful". Remembering some of the women and men, I just want to say: If a child thinks you look tacky; you might want to check a mirror. I am speaking specifically of YOU, Fat Kathy. You were a mean Sunday School Teacher and while I am sorry I made you cry for starting that name that we all called you, and I apologize for getting you in trouble with our preacher because you couldn't answer basic theology questions... you deserved it. You know you did, FK. However, in the spirit of true Christian forgiveness... I am sorry. I don't want you to hurt over being wrong and fat. So, I forgive you and hope you forgive me. You know, looking back... we got around alot at Easter. It was truly a day of pure celebration. And egg hunting.
However, there were NOT many places to hunt eggs in an Easter Sunday suit while your Momma took Polaroids AND stay clean, FYI...

This was kind of an important thing to LaNita. She liked clean. She liked tidy. She liked neat. She liked her kids to fit into those categories. And yet, with all of that egg hunting going on with my family, friend's, and church family... Those eggs were never a part of MY Easter basket. I can't remember peeling and actually eating a hard boiled chicken egg that I have dyed and painted into artwork. And for years, it didn't dawn on me that I didn't do that. I didn't have the wherewithall to ask specifically why when I was young, but I found out later through other questioning tactics and keen observation, that Momma thought they would either start smelling or chip their shells and "get things dirty". God love her. So, finally a grown up and armed with that information - now I can't eat good hard boiled eggs without thinking they are dirty and stink! Uh, okay. As I get older and older, and I feel like more and more patient - I merely shrug and say, "That's LaNita".

Thus, fake eggs. Or plastic eggs with presents or money inside. Or chocolate eggs wrapped in colorfully printed foils. I mean, give the woman credit, she out-Stewart-ed Martha, WAY before that lady did her first entertaining book. Momma was crazy, but she could fold a napkin, fix her hair, and throw a dinner party for 10 on an hour's notice, two can's of Cream of Mushroom, and an old bottle of wine. The woman could work some homemaking magic. However, I digress...

Baskets. Over the years there have been many. I still have a few of the truly amazing ones that I just couldn't bear to throw away. They usually included not ONLY candy, but also presents. When I was young, that meant toys. Toys I actually wanted, and not just some piece of dollar store crap to make me occupied for an hour. I am talking G.I. Joe's (the good ones, like Chameleon, or a Destro that had the removable part of his helmet.), Transformers, Voltron (the only REAL Voltron, the one with the Lions...) I mean, these were technically Christmas-grade presents, not basket-y junk my friends were getting. Score. As I got older, that changed to cassettes, t-shirts, shoes I wanted, then CD's, and then... suddenly and with not ceremony... No more baskets. She said I was too old. What the refridgerator is she talking about???

FYI, Momma... sometimes we are NEVER too old to get a good Easter basket from our Mother. FYI.
Easter wouldn't be Easter without church. Even non-Christians have Easter! The Jewish faith has Passover, and all other's fall into various categories that should be Easter. (That seems small minded, borderline-racist, and silly. You'll live. It's funny.) Now, I love me some church. Love. I like Sunday School. I like arguing with Sunday School Teachers about their theories on whether or no Mary was a little bit of an alcoholic. I like the song service, singing, Praise and Worship, the Preaching of the Word. I love me a good altar call where it's emotionally charged and one old lady get's her "shout" on! I like the coffee and fellowship after service. I like dinner on the ground. There is almost not one thing I do not like about church. And Easter is even more magical and even bigger to me. It's just... special.

Perhaps it's growing up in church, being a preacher's kid, having grandparents and extended family that were whole-heartedly into the the church and community, or perhaps it's just my core make up, but I enjoyed Church. I liked dressing up on Sundays, and going and seeing people, singing, and listening to someone talk loudly about messages that meant something to them. That's all I understood it to be as a child, and that's okay. As a child, the loud part made me listen harder, but I didn't know exactly what I was listening for... All of the time. It eventually did start hitting home and making it's way into my mind and heart. But that's a later story... Back to the good stuff: Dressing up. There were the mandatory new Sunday clothes that I had to keep clean on threat of my life. There is a precious picture of me in one of my Momma's photographic albums she won't let me have. It's me in a tan, polyester, three piece suit with a brown shirt and shoes. Smiling. HUGE smiling. And weilding in my hot little hands a fiecer basket with Major Steve Austin, the Six Million Dollar Man as my Easter present. My sister is there too. But she wasn't the clear star of this photo... Nor was her present as interesting to me. And if she'd like to talk about her memories of this day: She should write a blog about it. (Love you, Dawne)

But the clothes, the fun(stress) of getting up so early, cooking, dressing, basket presentation and the requisite oohing and ahhing over Momma's creation and intuition on presents, then the pageantry of Church and the Easter celebration, the after church functions with our church familes and then our own family traditions at home... It was just something special to grow up with. It was something amazing to have memories of. To have as a foundation. I would trade those for anything. Except for maybe a mint condition version of that Six Million Dollar Man I am sure I mutilated at some point. There was the year I got to be young Jesus singing "Didn't You Know" on live TV. I rocked. There was the year I learned that Smith County Red and new white Easter pants do NOT go together. There was the year that me and Momma watched Passion of the Christ and I literally saw what someone could go through for me. There was the year I skipped Easter and tried to be "above it all" and more wordly. I think the world knew I was faking, I think God knew I was faking, and I think my Momma knew I was faking. And there are the recent years where we as family are coming together and forming a fun little group I am actually proud to be related to! It's good to have those memories. Those foundations. Those moments of remembering complete bliss and sunshine and having a crush on Brance Boykin during Easters at High Hill.

Times sure have changed though. I am nearly old now. Our family of my childhood has suffered through divorces, deaths, marriages, and so many other things that often tear some families apart. Thankfully, I still have my FAMOUSLY funny Mamaw Sue. We lost my sweet and irreverent Papaw. My Mother is still one of the funnest and funniest people I know. Even if she doesn't mean to be funny at the time. Daddy and I haven't spoken since the Great Debacle. Curtis has become one of my heroes for how he loves and takes care of my Momma. And he's not too shabby of a preacher to boot. My older sisters Dawne and Melanie are two women I can actually call friends at this point in my life. And all of those things are good things. They are precious things. They are things that make going home again for Easter a priority and something that I think helps represent Easter.

Dawne has a child that is almost my height. Devin. He nearly shaves. Melanie and I are thankfully childless, and we like it that way. So far. I am thinking I might want a child of my own to corrupt and mess up one day. Chrissy is somewhere in Arizona and has who knows how many kids by this point, and Jessica doesn't have one yet, but I hear one's on the way (through Facebook, but I haven't actually recieved notification that this is the case.) I haven't heard from my natural father since one of his last incarcerations and grumblings about how unfair life is (yawn). But through it all, and I mean through it ALL, there is a comfort that still occurs in family.
Don't get me wrong, even though we can act like it at times, my sisters and me are definitely not children anymore... Not any of us... 

Speaking of comfort - if you read this, LaNita - this would be where you should artfully tear up just a little, dab your eyes, and then think of ways to get me my Easter basket tradition back. Please and thank you.

Now, do not get me wrong, I love my natural family with all of my heart. They are the crazy bunch that God clearly thought I had the strength to be lumped in with (He must have a ton of faith in me). I love my urban family. Well, mainly because I got to pick them and not to sound too conceited, I have impeccable taste in friends. Not lovers... but my friends and urban family are truly, truly top drawer.

Maybe you don't like Easter that much. Well, you are crazy then. :) No, whatever your feelings on whatever holidays are your personal business. I just had to gush and talk for a little bit on how I feel. Oh, that I started to wax poetic and get a little bit misty-eyed when I began writing down some of the antics in my journals from Easter 2012. It's all about love. Love from God to us to save us, love from us to others to be kind, love from family to family to stay together.

Peace and Cheers,

Easter 2012 was a blast.

It was a fun, funny blast that created some good memories for this year. We are all just a little bit too aware that Mamaw Sue is getting older and won't last much longer. That may sound utterly morbid. But it's not intended to be. It's meant to be realistic and we should spend as much time as possbile with the precious old thang before it's too late!!!

My Mamaw is superlously funny. She doesn't always intend it to be, she just has a way of speaking to people that comes across as hilarious. Truly, the last of a dying breed of sassy old generation Southern debutantes that can hoe a row, sew a dress, fix her hair, make unreal food, and still make it to church, "Christian Share" a little, and make me feel like the best little grandson that ever walked the face of the earth.

We decided months ago at Christmas that since Momma has birthday in March, Melanie has a birthday in March, and Curtis has a birthday in April... Why travel so much when we are spread across the country?? Why not have one big weekend of Momm, Mel, and Curtis... PLUS Easter?! (I'd like it known right here and now that this was clearly MY idea. Somehow LaNita decided that it was her weekend and her idea and she would handle it. That's another story that might ought be kept private. The old girl dug her heels in on this one and we might have had some wine soaked words...) However, it was decided and we all committed to the date. I was pretty excited.

My older sister Dawne has been working her patootie off at Southern... trying to get a Doctorate in history or archaology or something. She's brilliant. Very, very brilliant. But her smarty-pants-know-it-all attitude make watching entertainment (Spartacus: Blood and Sand) nearly impossible. While I am focused on those beautiful men and their eight packs, their rippling chests and the blatant sexual nature of a gladiator... My dear sister is in my ear, describing to me the political climate of the day and how the show is historically inaccurate in both location and fighting style. Maybe she's a lesbian?? I mean, who is worried about the freaking location of those characters?  See how the shine when they are oiled up?

My OTHER slightly older sister is Melanie. She works as much as I do, and she is just precious. She's sweet, and she's a peacemaker and she laughs when Dawne and I tear into one another about random facts and figures. All of them I love, but Mel and I endured high school together and she'll always have a place in my heart.
Now, I myself can't always travel home due to work. I have to plan. Well, not just me like I am more important - WE have to plan. Well, we NEED to plan, otherwise it's hard to always get us in the same place at the same time for the same purpose. Luckily, the siblings all agreed to present ourselves at our parents house and church (they live in a cute parsonage close to the church itself and have another house hidden off in the woods somewhere in God's Country in Mississippi)

I was in Tampa, Florida for work meetings and government evalutations the week of Good Friday. Originally, I was scheduled to fly home on Thursday, and present myself at the Roland Compound for inspection and Easter festivities on Friday afternoon. However, as it is common to do, the government changed our schedule and I was asked to stay through Friday.

Now, this was just fine after all. God is always so good to me. He allowed me to meet and befriend the lovely and incomparable Leslie Jordan...
But more on that later. I had to stay, and couldn't leave until Friday. Melanie was already on her way and was not "miffed", but she still verbally suspects and accusses me of staying an extra day on purpose just so I could meet and become email pen pals with a celebrity. I am just saying that sometimes, when God changes your plans, he gives you gifts to make that new journey less painful. Take from that what you will.

I flew all Friday afternoon and night. I flew like the wind. I flew like my life depended on it. And by that I mean I sat in First Class and drank Vodka and Sprite while I nibbled on mood elevators so that I would have a meltdown and claw the sass Man-Stewardesses face off every time we hit turbulence. Luckily for all... That plane touched down in Jackson, MS only two hours late but still in time for me to do laundry, shower, change clothes and hit the road! Or so I thought. That was the longest trip ever. Ever.

I hauled ass from the capitol township of Jackson to psuedo-party-city Hattiesburg to pick up my older sister, Dawne and her son, Devin. On the way there, I had time to drink my coffee, wake up, and prepare myself for what may come. Also, hours before, Momma had called to rip me from sleep and ensure a timely arrival at her house. Included in that conversation was the instruction that I was to come up with a plan for the family to sing music that Sunday.

Easter. Sunday. Music.

Now, I love to sing. I love to play the piano, and I love to perform. But Easter music is sacred and precious and special an sweet and all of that...
Plus, Dawne sometimes wants to sing, and sometimes not. Melanie ALWAYS wants to sing and is SO good at it, but she just never thinks she sounds good and she simply despises standing in front of crowds. Which makes singing awkward, Melanie!! You have to sing out loud and face the crowd. It's how they know you care and want to clap and shout. Otherwise, just play a tape. Now, as for me, I am just so shy and humble before the Lord, that I just want to do his will. (Kidding, I'm the ham. As the baby of all of the original generation of children, I learned to sing for my supper and let my bright light shine!! I'll perform at the opening of an envelope...) But that's not the point, the point is I was driving, thinking, and wondering how this was going to go.

Big Red (My Fire Engine Red, Land Rover Discovery) slung her way into Hattiesburg at least a half hour early to pick up Dawne and Devin. I make pleasantries and explain that while I love them, I need their restroom first. Then we are off and running again! (If you are so inclined, you may imagine Willie Nelson singing his famous hit "On The Road Again") when Momma calls. She wanted us to know that she had to go and pick Mamaw up, and that poor, poor Curtis was going to have to go to the city and get a new coffee pot. It seems theirs had recently gone on to a better reward. This saddened me, because I did want coffee, and they are very early risers... So no coffee was not an option. Also, there was the pesky business of my travel schedule and the lack of time I had to shop. I had to either get them a present, or convince them that my trip to see them WAS the present!! But how?! When? Where? I decided this was God presenting me with the perfect opportunity to both show them birthday love, look good with a nice present, and keep my caffience source in place. Win-win-win!!!"No. Don't you even let him walk out of the house. I'll get you two a coffee pot as a present from me for your combined birthdays.", I said.

"I thought you were cooking dinner, singing for Easter and bringing Dawne." she replied.

"I am, I have Dawne in the car. And I said I would cook." I said.

"No, I have already cooked and prepared for the whole weekend, so you wouldn be bothered. I just want you to relax, destress, and have fun" Momma stated.

Hmm. Okay. I am both doing and bringing the requisite things we discussed, you heifer! But, this isn't uncommon for me to do to others in business dealings or with friends or lovers. It's a gift, really... that way we southern folk can deliver a turd of a message that smells like flower! Realizing that I had either been "Southerned" into submission, or that she was an expert of turning things to her advantage, I went ahead and acquiesed...

"Momma, I'll get the coffee pot for y'all. It's the least I can do." I bravely moved forward... She pauses, a hitch in her sentence that was about to come out... "AND I'll still cook, bring Dawne, and sing."

"Aww, son... that will be lovely."
And it was. Two phone calls from her and Curtis later, they wanted to ensure that I COMPLETELY understood that this coffee pot need the BIG caraff, a timer, a mesh wire filter, and a water hookup. Mmmmkay. I'll be happy to fit those items into this gift.

Three more calls and an impressively long Wal-Mart list later, we were back on the road and headed for Momma's! Apparantly, in our family, communication is constant, but not effective. We are all on the phone with one another and about one another, but clearly we don't talk to the person in the next room about what just happened. Minutes later, Melanie calls to see where we are, why we are late, and did we know that a coffee pot is missing???

I love my family.