When I was a small child I usually went to church with our neighbors on Easter Sunday. It was understood that girls had to have new Easter Dresses, fluffy skirts, sashes that tied in back in a big bow, socks with lace on top, so my sister, Gay, and I always had a lovely outfit. Mother wanted us to look our best when we walked in with our neighbors.
She didn’t go to church with us. Daddy had been insulted, he thought, by the folks at the country church we attended. Mother quit going when he convinced her he would never go back. She said she couldn’t lie anymore about why he didn’t come with her. Having grown up in the church, she wanted her little girls to have that experience, but not badly enough to take us. I wished she would.
Beulah Methodist Church sat quietly in a patch of loblolly and long leaf pines, a white one-story wooden structure with no frills; no stained glass or special accoutrements. The windows of this church were usually open so we could have a breath of a breeze in sizzling summers of south Georgia. Most of the time I gazed out of one of those windows and daydreamed. I could be distracted by a bird on a limb or a wasp that buzzed in and bumped along the ceiling or dropped down to crawl along the top of a pew.
Jarred from my reverie, my mind skittered back to the sermon only when the sweating, balding man at the pulpit slammed his fist on the lectern or raised the Bible in his chubby hand and yelled at us, “Read the Good Book, and follow the words of Jeee-sus!”
Guilt ran up my spine because I knew he was talking to me. He had caught me daydreaming, I thought, and now he was mad at me. If this man was a representative of God, as he said, then I was scared to death of God.
On Easter Sunday, while the preacher was speaking, someone or several someones, hid colored eggs in the woods around the bare church yard. We had to bring a half dozen eggs to contribute to the hunt that took place as soon as possible after the last hymn was sung and the last Amen.
This was a real hunt, more difficult than searching out a lost calf or pig. No manicured lawn or even a field with mixed grasses awaited us kids. We had to climb over downed limbs, wade through weeds and grass up to our knees or higher. Piney woods usually have an understory of short bushy plants and tall grass. Around the church the ground was sandy and collected into my new patent leather shoes as I led my shy sister in trying to find some eggs.
Our neighbor boy hurtled into the woods, intent, along with his sisters, on finding the most eggs. There must have been a prize, but I don’t remember. I know neither Gay nor I ever won. We were careful to protect our new dresses and new shoes and socks. How can pretty little girls compete with a rowdy boy? He didn’t have to spend a minute thinking about where he walked or ran, whether or not he would get dirty, or whom he pushed aside to get the next hidden surprise. I was not too disappointed, just irritated at his arrogance over winning.
Gay and I had our own little egg hunt at home, after we opened our cellophane wrapped Easter baskets filled with candy. Of course we were told the Easter Bunny brought us the baskets. One year the Easter Bunny brought me a large stuffed rabbit, a blue one. We never fell for the hype about a hare coming into our house with presents, but we did believe in Santa Claus as long as we could get away with it.
Mother made sure the Easter Bunny found us, in one way or another, as long as we lived at home, but we did finally grow up and left. By then we had nieces and nephews. They came with their parents before our big meal and enjoyed the egg hunt on the front lawn.
They were all near the same age and made a cute group in their brand new outfits, their hair slicked down, and feet covered with new shoes. Mother left the kitchen and joined her children on the front porch, the best viewing area for the hunt.
Stan, my brother-in-law, kept his camera handy, following his two girls around. He captured the faces making happy sounds as well as the crying kid who found no eggs at those Easter Sunday gatherings during the sixties and seventies.
|Kaiki, Lee and Lyn - cute little girls in Easter dresses|
If I were to go back to that house, and if I were to stand on the front porch on Easter Sunday morning, I’m sure I’d hear the voices of my family members, most of them gone now, talking, laughing, and I’d see them the way I remember them – young and filled with hope and promise for the future, filled with love for their little ones who shared and divided up the colorful eggs in their baskets.
|Some of my family members on an Easter Sunday before I married|