Project Kindness (Day 23)

Here comes Peter Cottontail and several other Easter traditions that cause me to stammer, stall, and steal away to Wikipedia when the children ask me what Jesus going to Heaven and Peeps have in common. (Thank you, Interwebs.)

The company I work for participates annually in the United Way’s “Be a Bunny” program which plans on collecting and distributing 1,800 Easter baskets throughout our community this year. Here’s a tidbit from United Way’s website:

“The goal of the United Way “Be a Bunny” program is to provide Easter Baskets, filled with goodies and personal items, to children from low-income families, children with special needs, and senior citizens identified by area nonprofit organizations.”

As long as nobody expects me to reconcile the varied ways in which we celebrate the spring holiday, I’m happy to provide a deserving child with an Easter basket.

When I went to Target this afternoon, I was overwhelmed by all the…Easter. Rows and rows of pastel, chocolate, plastic, Princess, made-in-China Easter. I’m prone to getting rather overwhelmed when surrounded by aisles of unnecessary plastic objects, which is why I do not frequent Wal-Mart unless I have a gift card. First I perused the row of pre-arranged baskets. They were chock full of Phineas and Ferb, Dora, and Sponge Bob Easter fun, but the thought of introducing Disney and Nickolodeon to the already-confusing holiday rituals made me keep walking. I wanted to fill this deserving child’s basket with goodness. How does one do that? Where can one buy wholesome, happy, goodness and tuck it in a wicker basket? Sigh. I reined in my idealism.

When I was a kid, I remember Easter by the smell of vinegar and hard boiled eggs and the sight of vibrantly-colored dye fizzing in coffee mugs. I remember marathon egg hunts in our back yard. Sometimes our two dogs found the eggs before we did, which was a bit disappointing. I think my mom always had an extra stash in the fridge just in case. I remember looking forward to taking inventory of my basket when I discovered it on the dining room table at breakfast. We were allowed to eat a couple of treats before we went to church. We were allowed to bring a few goodies with us, as long as they weren’t wrapped in noisy plastic. I remember Easter dresses and white sandals. My favorite dress was one my mother made for me when I was about Poppy’s age. It was red and white with strawberries around the collar. I remember eating lightly stained and salty boiled eggs for lunch that day and every day after that for at least a week. I remember warm afternoons spent lying in the hammock noticing the daffodills and fruit trees. Goodness.

Perhaps I remember events of my youth with rose-colored glasses. I’m sure I do. There must have been plastic and excess and tchotchkes in the 1970’s, right? The fact that I don’t remember it that way means that either my mom was very good at disguising them or they were there all along and I just didn’t notice. The baubles and knickknacks were not the takeaways. Perhaps they were simply a means to an end. A reason to gather around the table as a family to create the memories that rise to the surface so many years later.

Yes, it is quite possible that I overthought this whole Easter basket task. With time ticking away and me breaking out into a cold sweat, I decided to make a mental compromise. I chose not to focus on the kitsch and instead thought about the happy memories I hoped the young recepient of my basket would make this Easter with his own family. Maybe he will share some of the Jelly Bellys with his little sister. Maybe he will toss the Nerf football with his dad. Maybe it will make his mama happy that her little boy got a little extra something all his own this holiday. Maybe. And even if none of those things happen, that’s the way I’d lilke to remember it.

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2 thoughts on “Project Kindness (Day 23)

  1. Like listening to Alice’s Restaurant by Arlo Guthrie on Thanksgiving, one should also adopt the tradition of reading of The Rabbit of Easter. He Bring the Chocolate by David Sedaris. From Me Talk Pretty Someday and the chapter when David goes to a multi-cultural school to learn French.

    The Italian nanny was attempting to answer the teacher’s latest question when the Moroccan student interrupted, shouting, “Excuse me, but what’s an Easter?”

    It would seem that despite having grown up in a Muslim country, she would have heard it mentioned once or twice, but no. “I mean it,” she said. “I have no idea what you people are talking about.”

    The teacher called on the rest of us to explain.

    The Poles led the charge to the best of their ability. “It is,” said one, “a party for the little boy of God who call his self Jesus…” She faltered and her fellow country-man came to her aid.

    “He call his self Jesus and then he be die one day on two…morsels of…lumber.”

    The rest of the class jumped in, offering bits of information that would have given the pope an aneurysm.

    “He die one day and then he go above of my head to live with your father.”

    “He weared of himself the long hair and after he die, the first day he come back here for to say hello to the peoples.”

    “He nice, the Jesus.”

    “He make the good things, and on the Easter we be sad because somebody makes him dead today.”

    Part of the problem had to do with vocabulary. Simple nouns such as cross and resurrection were beyond our grasp, let alone such a complicated refexive phrases as “to give of yourself your only begotten son.” Faced with the challenge of explaining the cornerstone of Christianity, we did what any self-respecting group of people might do. We talked about food instead.

    “Easter is a party for to eat of the lamb,” the Italian nanny explained. “One too may eat of the chocolate.”

    “And who brings the chocolate?” the teacher asked.

    I knew the word, so I raised my hand, saying, “The rabbit of Easter. He bring of the chocolate.”

    “A rabbit?” The teacher, assuming I’d used the wrong word, positioned her index fingers on top of her head, wriggling them as though they were ears. “You mean one of these? A rabbit rabbit?”

    “Well, sure,” I said. “He come in the night when one sleep on bed. Which a hand he have a basket and foods.”

    The teacher sighed and shook her head. As far as she was concerned, I had just explained everything wrong with my country. “No, no,” she said. “Here in France the chocolate is brought by a big bell that flies in from Rome.”

    I called for a time-out. “But how do the bell know where you live?”

    “Well,” she said, “how does a rabbit?”

    It was a decent point, but at least a rabbit has eyes. That’s a start. Rabbits move from place to place, while most bells can only go back and forth — and they can’t even do that on their own power. On top of that, the Easter Bunny has character. He’s someone you’d like to meet and shake hands with. A bell has all the personality of a cast-iron skillet. It’s like saying that come Christmas, a magic dustpan flies in from the North Pole, led by eight flying cinder blocks. Who wants to stay up all night so they can see a bell? And why fly one in from Rome when they’ve got more bells than they know what do to with here in Paris? That’s the most implausible aspect of the whole story, as there’s no way the bells of France would allow a foreign worker to fly in and take their jobs. That Roman bell would be lucky to get work cleaning up after a French bell’s dog — and even then he’d need papers. It just didn’t add up.

    Nothing we said was of any help to the Moroccan student. A dead man with long hair supposedly living with her father, a leg of lamb served with palm fronds and chocolate; equally confused and disgusted, she shrugged her massive shoulders and turned her attention to the comic book she kept hidden beneath her binder.

    I wondered then if, without the language barrier, my classmates and I could have done a better job making sense of Christianity, an idea that sounds pretty far-fetched to begin with.

    In communicating any religious belief, the operative word is faith, a concept illustrated by our very presence in that classroom. Why bother struggling with the grammar lessons of a six-year-old if each of us didn’t believe that, against all reason, we might eventually improve? If I could hope to one day carry on a fluent conversation, it was a relatively short leap to believing that a rabbit might visit my home in the middle of the night, leaving behind a handful of chocolate kisses and a carton of menthol cigarettes. So why stop there? If I could believe in myself, why not give other improbabilties the benefit of the doubt? I told myself that despite her past behavior, my teacher was a kind and loving person who had only my best interests at heart. I accepted the idea that an omniscient God had cast me in his own image and that he watched over me and guided me from one place to the next. The Virgin Birth, the Ressurrection, and countless miracles — my heart expanded to encompass all the wonders and possibilities of the universe.

    • Russell and I went to a David Sedaris reading a few years ago and laughed ’til we cried. Once you accept that he is completely inappropriate on every level, it’s a very fun outing!

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