11 April 2004

"In Your Easter Bonnet..."

Do people even have Easter bonnets anymore? :-) I know they still do the Easter Parade in New York; my friend Dana talked about going to it the year before she died. She had been planning to go the next year, too, wheeling her new baby and with her little daughter dressed up to the nines with her and her husband. But this didn't happen...

Remember having an entire new outfit for Easter? When I was a kid this was usually a new suit for the little boys--depending on their parents they could be with short pants or long ones. The shirt was usually blue, maybe with a white tie and matching white shoes, if the boy was young enough, otherwise the footwear was black. We little girls were in pastel dresses with skirts that billowed out by means of hideously scratchy petticoats underneath, ribbed leotards, patent leather shoes, and the inevitable straw Easter hat, brave with a ribbon band and perhaps a flower or two, with the elastic band to hold it on. It rubbed under your chin and was annoying. I knew a lot of little girls who chewed on theirs.

It also meant having your hair washed and put up in curlers the night before. These were hard and rubber and you hardly got any sleep, but heaven forbid you appeared in front of the aunts without curls!

If the petticoats and the elastic and the curlers were bad, there was always the good part: the holiday itself. You woke up to find a big Easter basket full of chocolate eggs and a chocolate bunny, and perhaps even a stuffed rabbit. My favorite stuffed rabbit was the last one I got, because he looked like a real rabbit. His name was "Harold J. Rabbit," or "Hoppy" for short.

After church there was the visit to the cemetery to bring big pots of geraniums to the grandparents' graves (and my uncle Ernest, who I barely remembered), and then visiting the relatives. All the aunts had made cookies, piles of Italian cookies on big round platters: butterballs coated in powdered sugar, wine biscuits, molasses cookies, almond bars, scattered with foiled Hershey kisses in between. One of the aunts or cousins, more ambitious than the rest, probably had made wandis, big crispy fried knots of dough that crumbled as you bit into them, scattering the powdered sugar on top all over your new Easter outfit, to your mom's dismay.

For dinner we had ham, and dessert was probably rice pie, which is exactly what it sounds like: a custardy dessert that used white rice as one of the fillings, rice pudding in a pieshell. There was always an apple pie for those of us who hated rice pies, and always more cookies with the coffee at dessert.

If Easter didn't come too early, it was probably sunny and warm and we kids could go outside and play--as long as we didn't get our clothes dirty. We were ingenious and managed to play anyway, even if it was just hopscotch on the long sidewalk outside Papà's house. It was then we could finally leave the straw hats and ties in the capable hands or purse of mom's and be as free as one could in dress clothes.