I’m not sure, but I have a sneaking suspicion that the way my family
celebrated Easter wasn’t exactly what the creator of the holiday had
Sure, we went to church on Easter Sunday. Easter was one of the
three days of the year my mother insisted we attend Mass, the other
two being Christmas and Ash Wednesday. These were the Big Holy Days,
and by my mother’s way of looking at things, if we were scrupulous in
observing Catholic tradition during them, our souls would be safe the
remaining 362 days of the year.
Easter always started with Mom waking my brothers and me at the
crack of dawn and demanding that we get dressed immediately. Because
so many days had passed since the last time we went to church, Luis,
Michael and I quickly threw on what we usually wore on days when
there was no school -- ratty T-shirts and whatever old jeans or
shorts we could find. Then Mom walked back into the room to see if we
were ready, and screeched.
“You can’t go to church in those rags!”
“Why not?” we asked in unison.
“Because we’re going to the House of God! You look like you’re
going to a poorhouse!”
“But, Mom,” I said, “you told us that Jesus loves everyone --
especially the poor.”
My mother stared at me for a long moment.
“No, I didn’t. Now put on your Communion suit and stop getting
smart with me!”
So my brothers and I groaned, then reluctantly changed into our
I hated my Communion suit. It didn’t fit the first time I wore it,
and as the years went by, the sleeves progressively crept up my arms
until you could almost see my elbows when I put it on. The buttons
strained around my belly; the starched shirt collar bit deeply into
my neck. But it was the only suit I had, and Mom insisted I wear it
at every important religious function.
For years after I left home, I would equate spirituality with
“Mom ... I can’t ... breathe ... “
“Oh, quit exaggerating! Just leave it unbuttoned on top! See? Ay,
mijo, unbutton the jacket, too, before you hurt yourself.”
Then Mom herded us to church like a flock of sheep in ill-fitting
wool. The big church in my hometown was St. Mathias, a beautifully
imposing structure with tall spires and an ornately detailed stone
Just inside the entrance was a brass bowl filled with holy water.
Michael made a huge show of gently dipping his right hand in the
water, then prissily dropping to one knee and dabbing it on his
forehead, stomach and shoulders in the Sign of the Cross. I rolled my
It really annoyed me that Michael was always such a show-off with
the holy water. If you had asked me, Michael was so evil he needed to
be fully immersed in the stuff, then marinated for a week before it
would have any real effect on him. But not to be undone, I dipped my
right hand in the water and crossed myself, too.
Throughout Easter Mass, my brothers and I fidgeted and jostled in
our hardwood pews. It wasn’t so much that the sermon bored us. It was
just that we knew what waited for us when we got back home, and the
thought of it drove us almost mad with impatience.
The night before, we had watched in wide-eyed fascination as our
mother delicately dipped eggs in steaming pots of vinegary food
coloring. Most of the eggs were of the simple, hard-boiled variety,
but some of them, we knew, were empty and would later be filled with
chocolate candy. And one of them -- just one -- would be stuffed with
that rarest of rare treasures: PAPER MONEY!
If times were lean, that stuffing of legal tender would be a
dollar bill. But if times were fat, as during those brief times when
Dad was actually working, that egg would be stuffed with FIVE
ONE-DOLLAR BILLS! As Mom gently dried the eggs and deposited them one
by one into a little wicker Easter basket, her sons sat and stared at
them the way South African jewelers might regard a bucket full of
With Mass concluded and her family’s religious obligations
discharged until December, Mom hustled her brood of South African
jewelers home for the big Easter egg hunt. The moment we walked
through the door, my brothers and I broke into a dead run for the
Only Mom’s most menacing voice could stop my brothers and me after
we smelled Easter eggs, and it did. I’m telling you, the Jedi Knights
had nothing on my mother.
“Wait while I get the Polaroid!” she said, and ran to the hall
My mother always insisted on preserving the moment as the kids
hunted Easter eggs. I think in her mind she held this idyllic image
of her sons in their adorable white suits, gingerly gathering the
eggs and thoughtfully sharing them with one another.
But what she failed to grasp year after year was that every
Saturday night before Easter, the boys would spy on her from nearby
hiding places as she stashed the eggs around the backyard. By Sunday
morning, every single egg location was pre-sighted, and my brothers
and I had already worked out in our brains the most efficient way to
snatch up as many of them as possible before someone else got to
So when Mom finally led us out to the backyard and said “Go!”, her
illusion of the communal Easter egg hunt dissolved into a blur of
elbow-flying, hair-pulling, feet-tripping chaos. As the youngest of
the bunch, this lack of order and decorum was decidedly to my
disadvantage. I might have known where all the eggs were hidden, but
Luis and Michael did, too, and they were bigger and meaner than me.
I might have passed through childhood without capturing a single
egg, were it not for my mother’s innate sense of fairness. As soon as
it became apparent to her that the hunt would end with me
empty-handed, she would step in.
“Look! Davey! Look!” she’d cry, standing next to a bush and
pointing at it. Having waited for just this moment, I would jump for
joy and dash for the bush, knowing an egg was hidden within it. Of
course, my brothers immediately made a run for the bush, too, but
they would back off when they saw the look in Mom’s eyes. In the
pecking order, my mother was bigger and meaner than any of us.
Later that evening, the family gathered around the dinner table
for the big feast my mother had prepared. Luis, Michael and I just
stared at the food, our appetites shot and our stomachs queasy from
all the candy. But we couldn’t have been happier.
I don’t think the way we celebrated Easter was what God had
intended. But I know that as we all bowed our heads and thanked the
Lord for our bounty, it was one of those rare times we believed in
our hearts we were truly blessed.
* DAVID SILVA is the city editor of the Leader’s sister newspaper,
the News-Press. His columns run Saturdays. Reach him at 637-3231, or
by e-mail at email@example.com.