Friday, March 25, 2016

Good Friday

Christ the Lord is risen today, Alleluia!
Earth and heaven in chorus say, Alleluia!
Raise your joys and triumphs high, Alleluia!
Sing, ye heavens, and earth reply, Alleluia!

Charles Wesley

     There were always cupcakes that looked like Easter baskets.  Mama would take coconut, mix it with green food coloring, then put the "grass" on top of a cupcake already covered in white icing.  She'd nestle in some jelly beans and then bend a straw to make it look like a basket handle.  She took the Easter Basket cupcakes to Sunday School for the third graders she taught for years.  We'd have extras at home.  I think about her and those cupcakes every Easter.

     There was the year that Daddy began some huge project in the basement a couple of weeks before Easter.  He kept asking me to come downstairs and assist.  Every time I asked him what we were building and every time he found a way to avoid the question.

 "Just hold that board still so I don't hit you with the saw."
"Yessir,,, but what are we building?"
"It's a secret...I don't want to tell anyone in case it doesn't turn out the way I want it to...."

     Being the engineer he was I could tell he'd drawn up some plans for whatever it was on some drafting paper from his office.  But that wasn't unusual - the simplest of household chores sometimes started on drafting paper from his office.  When Easter morning finally arrived, I was led down to "the project" now finished in the basement. Turns out it was a rabbit pen and I had been given two live rabbits in lieu of an Easter Basket that year.  I liked them even better than the peanut butter eggs and jelly beans and Easter Basket cupcakes.  At least one of them lived much longer than rabbits usually do, not dying until we'd moved to a new house and I was a teenager.  It might've been my best Easter.

     Easter always meant a new suit.  You had to get a new one, not just because of Easter protocol but because you were growing at such a pace that last year's suit didn't fit or it was just showing the wear and tear a reckless male child can exact on a good suit.  Some of them were God-awful gawdy, in colors that would've been plain garish the rest of the year.  But on Easter they seemed perfectly natural, as did the gigantic hats that adorned my sisters' heads.   Those hats looked like they were on their way to the Kentucky Derby, not the Methodist church at the corner of Metropolitan and Moreland. I remember Easter being the only time Daddy slapped Vitalis in my hair, using it's miracle powers to control a cowlick that could double as a television antenna.  I never knew why he had a bottle of Vitalis in the medicine cabinet - he was bald.  I reckon to use on that one Sunday a year, so that my hair would be as spiffy as my suit.

     After church there was ham.....lots of ham. And green beans.  And deviled eggs.  And more ham.  Being older and slower and busier I now know the Herculean effort involved in a spread like that one.  Especially AFTER you've made the Easter Basket cupcakes, helped sisters get those huge hats to perch on their heads just right and kept  a rotten little boy in a new suit from going down to the dog pen to play with his favorite creatures ( "You can 't go to church smelling like a dog!")

 Lives again our glorious King, Alleluia!
Where, O death, is now thy sting? Alleluia!
Once he died our souls to save, Alleluia!
Where's thy victory, boasting grave? Alleluia!

     Last night, late in the evening on Maundy Thursday,  I decided to watch the news before I went to sleep.  On the news, I saw infant lying amongst the rubble of a freshly bombed airport terminal,  crying at the top of its lungs.  I suddenly wasn't so sleepy.  No one responded to its screams because that baby's dead mother was lying next to it - the nails in the homemade bomb someone turned loose in that airport had found her body instead of her baby's.  Though someone slowed down long enough to take that video on their phone they didn't stop running.  "I couldn't run past a dog crying for it's mother, how can those people just ignore that baby?"  I decided to not be too hard on them because I've never found myself in the middle of a terrorist attack and don't know how I'd react. I was glad the lady of the house had already fallen asleep so that she wouldn't see a tear roll down my cheek as I tried to rest.   I tried to relax.  I even tried to pray.  I didn't do much of either.

     This morning's Good Friday.   I worked hard to put my mind on my job, answer emails, make some calls and play catch up from a busy week.  But I didn't turn on the news.  I didn't want to hear that baby crying again.   So I kept my nose to the figurative grindstone and kept hoping it'd feel like the middle day of the three days that are supposed to define the faith I was raised to lean on (no matter how dark things became.  "There's Power In The Blood!")    But it was so much easier back then.  Easter Sunday and church and Charles Wesley hymns and ham and bunny rabbits and fancy cupcakes and more ham.  Yes, the world was much, much nicer.   Hell, we even loved going to school most days!  I can remember one time, in second grade, Mrs. Kilpatrick (who was at the same time the scariest and sweetest teacher God ever put on earth) showed us a map of our United States.  She went around our circle, pointed at a state and we took turns telling her what each abbreviation meant.  Everyone else got "GA"   or "TN"  or "NY"    I got "VT"  I said, "uh,,,,Vietnam?"   It was some word I'd heard on the news, you see. 

          “He stood at the window of the empty cafe and watched the activites in the square and he said that it was good that God kept the truths of life from the young as they were starting out or else they'd have no heart to start at all.”
Cormac McCarthy, "All the Pretty Horses"