Easter is almost here, and I’m thinking of the menu, and all the Easters past. For most of my growing-up life, we traveled to Boynton, OK, and had Easter dinner with my grandmother. When she decided it was too much trouble, my mother began hosting the family gathering, which became the new tradition throughout my young womanhood. The old folks are gone, now, and the family is scattered across the country and the world, now. But even though our Easters are much smaller these days, members of my family still adhere to the old Easter dinner menu we knew as kids - just on a much smaller scale!
We always had a ham. When I was small, in Days of Yore, the ham wasn’t vacuum packed and spiral cut, it was a big old bone-in hunk of meat, marbled with fat. It wasn’t bought at the store, either. It was raised from a piglet, butchered and smoked by one of the family members still on the farm. By the time we were going to Mama’s, the sty-to-table ham was no more, but she made up for it by tenting and slow cooking the thing with brown sugar and mustard glaze, and clove buds stuck all over the top.
My parents never bought chocolate bunnies and eggs and colored jelly beans for us, but we did have to have our Easter eggs. My sisters and I pestered our mother to let us dye the eggs for weeks before the day, and finally she couldn’t stand it any more and let us make a mess of the kitchen several days ahead of time.
My husband’s very large family had their Easter egg traditions, as well. Don is the seventh of seven children, only two of whom were boys. His only brother, whom I will call “Mac”, is nine years older than he is, so Don remembers their relationship as being one of his tagging along behind Mac and allowing himself to be talked into whatever mischief the elder came up with. One year, Mac and Don loaded up several hard-boiled eggs, snuck out to a nearby field, and spent a happy half hour throwing the eggs at a telephone pole. I loved the image so much that I used it as the inspiration for an incident in my second novel, Hornswoggled.
In fact, one entire chapter in Hornswoggled is about a giant family Easter dinner like the ones I remember from my girlhood, with all the mamas, aunts, sisters and cousins bustling around grandma’s kitchen, readying a massive dinner for sixty-five.
The kitchen was literally a hotbed of action. The spring day was cool, but the heat of the wood-fired, cast iron stove, combined with the harried activity of nearly a score of women, served the make Grandma’s big kitchen uncomfortably hot. Grandma Sally herself stood in the center of the floor at the hear of the kitchen table, directing the action like a trail boss.
So, happy Easter, all. Now, go forth and make some memories that the kids will think of fifty years from now with such fondness that one of them may write about them in a novel.