In another week, the six weeks of Lent will culminate in Easter, the major celebration for Christians all around the world. This year, the Jewish time of Passover begins April 11th, and will be celebrated during many of the same days as the Christian Holy Week. There seem to be so few certainties in today’s world that rites and celebrations, full of tradition, are instrumental in keeping us grounded. I am, annually, reassured by the familiar palm branches and transported by the fragrance of Easter flowers. This is also when I pull out our small collection of wooden and marble eggs to be crowned by the one fragile egg, painted in great detail, brought back from Poland by a friend. And Easter Sunday is when our Sunday school kids make the “empty tombs” ---- biscuits that are baked with a marshmallow in the middle; this leaves a space surrounded by sweetness. Tradition --- often a really good thing!
A tradition that has little relevance to the spiritual emphasis of this holiday, involves Easter bonnets. I loved my small-girl Easter hats, but thought they were an out-of-date custom. A couple of weeks ago, I was happy to hear a young mother speak of shopping for an Easter bonnet for her four-year-old. Clothes may be one of humanity’s vanities, but there’s little more appealing than small children dressed for special occasions, and most especially in an Easter bonnet. The hat I remember best was a pale straw confection, trimmed with a black velvet ribbon and daisies. YUM!! It was also the year that, for some unknown reason, my father took me shopping for an Easter dress. When I couldn’t decide between two, he bought both. This etched an impression in my young mind that going shopping with Dad was a really good deal.
We found another kind of YUM a week or so ago when we joined friends for lunch at the Seneca Sweet Shop. It is a fairly new business in Watkins Glen. In addition to tasty sandwiches on home-made bread, they have a small bakery and a large choice of classic chocolates. The restaurant opens into another shop where one can find gifts and memorabilia. Lunch was very good and the ambiance was bright and cheery. At least two of us are looking forward to revisiting that chocolate counter and helping the Easter bunny out just a bit.
Do you ever consider the people who have helped you become who you are? A few of us were discussing those who had influenced us over the years. We all are, at some time, influential with someone, beginning in our families. I think, in our busy daily lives, we forget that what we say and how we behave is going to have, on those around us, an impact that might be lasting. Usually we don’t know until years later – perhaps never – what that was. Very occasionally, one does hear that we’ve made a difference for someone, and it’s like a star-burst for the day.
When I was about eight years old, my mother and I had tea with an elderly friend. The memory of how Mrs. Boughton treated me --- as though I had preferences and opinions that mattered ---- has stayed with me my entire life. Adults don’t often see children in that respectful way. I had a couple of teachers who definitely influenced my developing character --- and at least one whose teaching affected me negatively. My sixth grade teacher was a creative woman who, when she saw that some students were a bit bored, devised extra projects that kept us interested. And she always cared how we were feeling and what we were thinking. My high school English teacher was an amazing person who made even Shakespeare interesting to juniors and seniors. Her comments and encouragement certainly set me on the path to writing. On the negative side, a fifth grade teacher (there are a few inepts in any profession) instilled in me a yawning incapacity and dislike for math that lasted for probably forty years ---- until I had to work out the puzzle of an agency budget and discovered some “Ah-Ha” moments of clarity. I wish I had shared my appreciation with those two teachers who shone so brightly. I can hope that they somehow knew.
All along my life’s journey, there have been affirmers and mentors, though seldom officially. These were people who simply entered my life at just the right moment either as neighbors, fellow-church members, co-workers or service-providers. They helped me grow in understanding of leadership, spiritual growth, and self-awareness. Some of you are reading this right now. Many times individuals were simply kindly and good-hearted. In the Lewisburg area, when we moved into a house, two or three women from our church appeared with buckets and sponges –scrubbing walls and windows. After our children were born, there were those who took the place of absent family, reassuring me, as a new mother, and occasionally babysitting. And when we moved to our current residence, similar kindnesses occurred. I was warmly welcomed into this community via music, church and work. “Happiness is a perfume; you can’t pour it on somebody else without getting a few drops on yourself.” James Van Der Zee*. One simply never knows the impact any of us might have on another and ultimately, on ourselves. So pass the fragrance on!
Speaking of impact, I’ve made a major dent in some of my stuff. There is a magazine, “Country Living” to which I have subscribed since it came to be. The magazines were so full of information, beautiful photographs, ideas for one’s home, and yummy recipes that I kept every one. At twelve issues per year for over twenty years, you can perhaps imagine the stacks I had neatly stored on shelves. After considerable inner dialogue, I decided that it was time to let them go, and spent several hours of a few days flipping through each one. I tore out a few things but, surprisingly, felt almost no trauma at letting these “old friends” go into recycling. The decision itself was momentous, but now that the task is done, I’m feeling refreshed and am rejoicing that I have some empty shelves to fill with things more useful to me at this point in my life. And – well – I admit that it wasn’t a total cleansing; I kept the Christmas issues to cheer some cold December days.
If you are spring-cleaning, I wish you strength and the courage to discard your too many things! . And many good wishes for a joyous Easter and/or a blessed Passover.
*James Van Der Zee was an American, born 1886 and died 1993. He was an honored Harlem Renaissance photographer.
Carol may be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.