Art by Kirsten Hemrich
Easter always begins the same way for my family. My mother and aunt compete to see who can call my grandpa first on Easter morning to say, “The Lord has risen,” to which my grandpa will respond, “Indeed.” Last year my mom woke at the break of dawn to beat my aunt, but generally my aunt wins. Then my grandpa will call my cousins, brother, and me to relay the same message. As a whole, we’ve always been “indeeders,” rather than “the Lord has risen-ers.” This year is so bizarre because nearly every other tradition in my family will be through the phone as well.
Generally, we wake up earlier on Easter Sunday than on a usual Sunday. This is because my mom still does an Easter basket every year for us. Then my family races to get ready to beat the Creasters so that we can sit in our normal seats; of course, that isn’t a problem for me because I always sit beside my grandpa, and he saves my seat with his black leather Bible case. Once we arrive, I dash over to my grandpa and pinch his elbow. Most Easter Sundays, my aunt or my mom has bought him a new outfit; he will open his jacket and show me a new purple button-up shirt and then lift his pant leg to show me his argyle socks. My cousins sing each Sunday, but they pull out all of the stops for this service. My grandpa will elbow me in the side when he occasionally messes up the words and giggles. He then usually slips me a wintergreen Lifesaver mint, but I wait until the sermon starts so I can sing without the mint. My uncle is our pastor, so after we sing, he begins. When the service is the quietest, that is the minute my grandpa decides to go rattle all of the loudest papers in his pocket to hand me another mint or to give someone a cough drop down the row if they make the slightest noise with their throats. Again, he giggles.
After church, we go to my grandpa’s house for lunch as we do every Sunday; Easter Sundays are a little different. I usually get offered a piece of ham by my grandpa upon entering, to hold me over until my cousins get back from singing. My aunt will run in, her heels clicking across the floor, as she magically makes biscuits in her Easter dress without getting any flour on her before she races back to the church in time for the second service. My mom always makes the mashed potatoes, and there is usually an assortment of beans and corn on the stove. I go back in what we call the green room (despite it being painted tan many years ago) to see the eyeliner I attempt twice a year. Even my grandpa’s Alexa (which he often calls Alexi or Lexi) is programmed to turn on the lights in the “green room.”
My grandpa calls my aunt, my mom, me, and my five other cousins “Earl” or “Little Earl” if he is being extra affectionate. After smudging the eyeliner and resolving to just wipe it off, that is when I hear, “Earl, you want another piece of this ham?” I always take the other piece. In the first round, when the food is finally all done, my mom, grandpa, brother and I eat together. My dad usually comes in a bit later. Then the second round arrives with my younger cousins and my aunt. Then my other aunt and uncle come in with my other cousins (Tim flexes his either purple or yellow collared shirt, a classic Tim, keep it up). My uncle always arrives the very latest as he talks to the many people that attended the service.
My cousins Sydney and Marley and I did Easter egg hunts until I was at least 14; in other words, for way too long. It used to be a high-suspense event. I don’t think I ever found the golden egg with the prized five dollars in it. My cousin Kelsey always managed to somehow. She was also the one who was always able to discover where our parents hid our Christmas presents at my grandpa’s house.
Most Sundays, my cousins Sydney and Marley and I end up in the basement talking and watching TV. We still sleep over at my grandpa’s house often at 19 years old. On Easters, however, we generally float between the green room, the piano room, the kitchen, and the Florida room (we all pronounce it “flauhduh,” I didn’t even know that it was the “Florida room” until a couple of years ago). My grandpa’s house is not that big, but the names and people make it feel that way. I can only hope that next year, we will be able to gather as we always have.