Spring is in the air, so my daughter and I have been doing a bit of closet cleaning in preparation for the warm weather. Elizabeth tossed a heavy armload of pastel dresses onto her bed and announced they all were too small.
I snatched up the nearest dress, ready to do battle. It was a fluffy Easter dress and I eyed the tag: size 10. She hasn’t worn a 10 for a while. Huh.
Surely I could rescue one or two of her rejects, I thought, and dug through the pile of old favorites. No luck. They all were 10s and 12s, and smalls and mediums, all outgrown. By the time I reached the bottom of that pile, I had to admit my baby is growing up fast.
Carefully, I folded each dress and put them all into a bag bound for our favorite consignment shop. Two matching Easter hats -- one lavender and one aqua blue -- went into the top of the bag, where they would not be crushed. They were far too small, and way out of vogue for a fifth-grader, I suspect.
Seeing those ghosts from Easters past brought back many happy memories that long pre-date Elizabeth. The clothes reminded me of when my sisters and I wore little white Easter hats and gloves, fluffy dresses and shiny black Mary Janes to church and then to visit my grandmother. We carried tiny white pocketbooks and posed for pictures, looking like little dolls.
It also was an Easter morning 26 years ago when my family met Tim for the very first time. We had just started dating and he had hinted he wouldn’t be doing anything special on Easter Sunday. Taking the bait, I invited him to my mother’s house. I still remember my sisters running to the window to sneak a peek as he got out of his car and walked across the driveway. They giggled and nodded their approval, as did my mother.
Years later, we all were together again for Easter when we happily celebrated our engagement. I remember waving my hand, diamond ring and all, as often as possible, offering to pass plates and platters from one end of the table to the other. Excitement was running high as wedding plans were made.
A year or two later, we just had adopted our first collie puppy at Easter. Milo was a very special invited guest to my mother’s house that year. The little dog won everyone over with his floppy ears and adorable speckled face. Again, we were over the moon.
Most years we would have the same bountiful feast of pasta, ham, vegetables, salad, bread and desserts. And after the meal, we often would head outside to stretch our legs. Sometimes the boys would throw a football or frisbee, or we would have a co-ed wiffle ball or kickball game.
One year my mother announced she had planned an outdoor challenge: a relay race of sorts. With a gleam in her eye, she explained we would divide into two teams. Then, with a set time limit, we would see which team could heap up the biggest pile of brush. And there was a reward -- a cash prize, in fact. The loot was tucked inside plastic Easter eggs.
We eyed the lawn under her weeping willow tree and saw loads of downed limbs. This was going to be fun. The kids jumped for joy and cheered at the prospect of a game, any game. Their enthusiasm was contagious.
We picked teams and the timekeeper announced it was time to begin. On the signal to go, we raced around, with the adults grabbing limbs and dragging them to the assigned collection spot. Meanwhile the youngsters picked up twigs and other small sticks and contributed what they could.
Suddenly, my sister and I got an idea.
We spied a huge branch that had broken over the winter. The limb was on the ground, but technically still attached (barely) to the trunk of the tree. Partners in crime, we pulled and tugged and finally managed to tear the massive branch from the tree. As we stumbled toward our team's growing pile of brush, the clock was winding down. The kids on our team cheered, while the adults on the other team jeered.
"No fair!" they cried. "You cheat!"
We were laughing so hard we were barely able to drag the heavy limb. Without a moment to spare, we flung the branch onto the heap and fell to the ground in hysterics.
Clearly, we had won. Our brush pile dwarfed that of the competition, mainly because of the giant branch.
Then, as always seems to be the case with our family competitions, somebody started to cry and others scolded us for our bad behavior.
"You guys cheated," they sulked.
To quiet the riot, we shared our prize money with the kids and then apologized, admitting we were wrong to cheat. The admission and free cash cheered them instantly.
"That was fun!" they said, counting the greenbacks.
"Yeah, and Grammy!" my nephew said excitedly.
"You probably didn't even notice, but look! We cleaned up the yard, too!"
And the beat goes on.