It is the first day of April and it is Easter 2018. T.S. Eliot once wrote that April is the month that “stirs dull roots with spring rain.” If our roots have indeed grown dull over the long gray Wisconsin winter, Easter and springtime seem out to change that for us.
As a child, I remember how much I loved Easter. It was my second favorite time of the year, right after Christmas. There was so much I loved about it.
I loved searching all over the house on Easter morning for our baskets which the Easter Bunny had hidden in secret places. When we found them, it seemed like a gluttony of candy, yellow and pink baby peeps, chocolate covered marshmallow eggs, jelly beans, and a big chocolate bunny. It seemed especially sweet after 40 days of a Lent with no candy. And other things were in the basket too, colored bubbles and wooden paddles with balls attached, and jump ropes, and jacks. Little trinkets in a middle-class family, but precious to us.
I loved decorating eggs with faces and words and then dyeing them into bright pinks and yellows and greens and purples and blues. Nowadays they say that Easter eggs should be kept refrigerated at all times (true, I guess) but some of those colored eggs stayed in our baskets for weeks. I don’t remember anyone getting sick from them, although they sure didn’t taste very good after a while.
I loved that we girls got Easter bonnets and white gloves (that makes me feel so old to remember that)!
I loved the song, “In Your Easter Bonnet” which my dad would walk around the house whistling. (“Nobody ever whistles anymore,” my mom would say in her final years after my father died. I remember that now as I realize anew that not many people do whistle anymore).
I loved the Easter photos, one of me standing next to my little brother, posing with our baskets and two 3-foot blow-up bunnies.
But what I most remember about Easter is that it felt like springtime granting us a peek at, a hint of, what was to come after the cold gray winter. As ee cummings wrote of spring, “now the ears of my ears awake/now the eyes of my eyes are opened.” Oh, yes. Purple crocuses poke up their heads through the snow as if to make a promise of lush blossoms yet to arrive. A few courageous robins venture back to Wisconsin to diligently peck the cool ground seeking some early worms. And, while I didn’t have words for it back then, our spirits rise amid the lushness of green around us, the cadence of the birds, the stickiness of tiny blossoms, and that twinge of springtime like jumping beans inside of us. And it is still true that generation after generation, we open up once again to springtime and hope and renewal. And, if we are lucky, we open again to the wonder of the child inside of us.
Many artists have spoken to the theme of staying young in spirit. J.M. Barrie, the writer and creator of Peter Pan warned us to “Never Grow Up.” In fact, once when Barrie was asked a question he couldn’t answer, he responded with the words, “I’m not young enough to know everything.” Echoing the same sentiments, Walt Disney, that glorious creator of unlimited imagination, said, “That’s the real trouble with the world. Too many people grow up. They forget.” And Jim Henson, that ineffable visionary who devoted his life and passion to creating those wisdom-filled Muppets, reminded us, “The most sophisticated people I know — inside, they are all children.”
As I write this, we don’t know if Easter 2018 will be warm and sunny or if it will be cold, maybe even snowy. But Easter somehow lives in us as a day with a promise of hope, no matter what. So maybe this springtime we don’t have to be grown up completely, maybe we don’t have to forget.
Maybe we can think of new beginnings for ourselves and rejoice in the children around us and especially in the child inside of us. Maybe we can blow bubbles, eat a few yellow peeps, play with paddleballs, whistle, imagine future possibilities, and reflect on the multitude of stories and dreams behind us as well as the multitude of stories and dreams yet to come. As the Quaker adage goes, “Tis a gift to be simple.” Or as Jim Henson was known to say, “Simple is good.”
Ah, yes, simple is good. And just as little chicks break their way out of their shells and into sunlight, we too can poke our way to light and childlike renewal. As Leonard Cohen wrote, “Ring the bells that still can ring/Forget your perfect offering/There is a crack in everything/That’s how the light gets in.”
So here’s to light and to springtime and to rediscovering that irrepressible child inside of all of us.
Stay young. And Happy Easter.