When I was growing up our Easter tradition was to go to the river (Colorado River) and spend the weekend with my extended family on my mom’s side. I have a large extended family, and my grandma’s siblings, and their kids, and their kids’ kids would all come. To give you an idea, my grandma was one of 8, and she alone had 8 children, many of which had children of their own (i.e. me). We estimate about 100 people would come. These Easter gatherings were such a special tradition. Many of the relatives I only saw once a year at the river. The part of the river we go to is pretty low key, and we all hung out on a big dirt lot: kids happily playing in the water and sand, and adults happily chatting and eating at the trailers. People would arrive as early as a week before, although we usually got to our motel late Thursday night. Friday was casual as people were still arriving. Saturday night we’d stay at the river late for steak night and marshmallow roasting. Sunday was our Easter service and then most people would head home.
Sadly that tradition has almost entirely collapsed as all of the siblings except my grandma and her brother have passed away now. It’s amazing that we could go from so many people gathering for Easter to none at all, but we did. If you’re familiar with my blog, you may know that we often go to the river during the summer time. Back when this Easter tradition started, that was not the case. Once a year at Easter was the only time we would go to the river. Sometimes we would go to lakes with friends that had boats, but we did not have our own boat. Eventually our boat friends moved away, and my parents decided to invest in a boat of their own. Thus began the summers at the river. Even then though, we would launch our boat and stay at a motel in town. When I got married, my husband joined in on the river fun, except he and I would tent camp at the place where we launched the boat to save money (broke newlyweds and all). One day my husband was checking out the trailers that were for sale in the park, and he found a nice site that seemed to have a trailer in good condition. He mentioned it to my parents, and before we knew it they were proud owners of a trailer. That investment has more than paid off for our family. Our visiting has improved tremendously as it is so much easier to spend quality family time together at the trailer than we ever could at the motel. As our family has expanded, it’s been interesting trying to determine sleeping arrangements for my parents, brother, us, our kids, and our dog, but we make it work.
All of this is to say that our Easter tradition has changed over the years from a gathering of extended family to a gathering of us, our parents, and our siblings— the river being the only constant. Last year even that constant was compromised as Austin was born just before Easter. There was no way we could handle a river trip with a newborn, so my parents and my grandma came over to our place for church and Easter last year. It was nice to be able to participate in some of our parish’s Easter festivities that we usually miss out on. This year, however, we are back to the river. The boys are a great age for the river now—last year Austin was a bit young to appreciate it much. Unfortunately my brother couldn’t make it this year because he had a track meet, but we were thrilled that Clint’s dad and brother, sister-in-law, nephew, and nieces were all able to join us. They live about 6 hours from us, but the river is a perfect mid-way point. The kids absolutely adore each other, and it so fun to watch them together.
One of my favorite bloggers, Kendra at Catholic All Year, has started a linkup called Answer Me This, and each week there are a new set of questions to answer. I’m going to give it a try this week and tell the rest of our Easter story through her questions.
1. What did you and your family wear to Mass on Easter Sunday?
As you may have seen on Facebook, I had the rare luxury of going to Target by myself last week. I try to keep my shopping to a minimum, and when I do shop it’s usually online, so I think I may have gotten a little carried away being in a store by myself. I saw this dress that I absolutely fell in love with, and it was buy one get one half off, so clearly it was a sign that I needed a lovely Easter dress. So yeah, the brand is Xhilaration, and I got it at Target. The cropped cardigan I bought maybe 5 years ago from Windsor. My shoes are Rainbow sandals, and they are the dressiest flat sandals that I own, so maybe I need to buy some dressier ones someday. My cross necklace is from Tiffany’s, and it was a gift from my husband the first birthday that I celebrated with him.
I’m living dangerously and also linking up with What I Wore Sunday. If you want to see more Easter outfits, click here.
There is a great church in town that we attend when we’re at the river. The people have been so incredibly welcoming to us. One of the ushers always greets everyone (often with a hug), and he knows who we are–amazing what a big difference that small gesture can make. They also have a wonderful Polish priest that reminds us a little of my grandpa (my mom’s dad) who was Polish. He has a contagious enthusiasm and a special love for holy water. At the end of mass he invites parishioners to come to the front if they are celebrating a birthday or anniversary or would like a special blessing, and then he douses them (no joke, don’t go up if you’re not prepared to get WET) with holy water. My parents went up for an anniversary blessing– 34 years Saturday! Also, being that it was Easter, Father went row by row and watered us all. We are blessed to not only have a home church where we can enjoy the energy of an active parish, but also to have a river church that is filled with the Spirit and truly is a home away from home.
2. Easter Bunny: thumbs up or thumbs down?
I have not found the Easter bunny or Santa to be incompatible with celebrating the true meaning of the holidays. I enjoyed the magic of it all when I was a child, and I love being able to share these special celebrations with my kids. I know some people think it’s lying to your kids and remember a traumatic day that they found out “the truth.” For me there was no such traumatic day. I still believe in Santa and the Easter Bunny, and they bring me little surprises every year. Of course I play a different role these days than I did as I child, but I absolutely love it!
After the kids checked out their Easter baskets, they got to enjoy an Easter egg hunt sponsored by my in-laws. Given the ages of the children (1-3), the eggs weren’t exactly hidden so much as scattered around in a small space, but they were into it. Even the youngest participants managed to grab an egg or two. The oldest ones cleaned up, of course. So fun!
3. Do you prefer to celebrate holidays at your own house or at someone else’s house?
My parents generally host the holidays. Easter they host because they have the trailer at the river, although last year we hosted due to the newborn situation. They host Christmas partially because it is tradition and partially because they have the space for it (we are in a condo). Clint’s brother and sister-in-law host Thanksgiving, and they have been doing so since Clint and I first started dating. Clint and I hosted Thanksgiving one year because they lived in a one bedroom apartment at that time and were within an hour of our house. With kids it is certainly nice to have the ease of being in your own space, but hosting can be a lot of work. I think though that we will want to host more events someday if we are able to buy a house.
4. What is your favorite kind of candy?
My favorite candy is Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, but I’m kind of particular about them. I like the full size cups– the chocolate to peanut butter proportions on the mini ones just are not right. Yes, I realize I sound crazy. It’s also important that they be fresh. Do you know what I mean? The difference is incredible. Of course, it’s hard to tell what you’re going to get, but the little ones never seem to be fresh. For these reasons, I often don’t bother with Reese’s for the baskets. My mom did get us one of my other favorites though: candy corn. Mmm.
My husband grew up with Peep’s in his Easter baskets, so that is now a must for our family. He is also a Cadbury egg kind of person, so I picked up a few of those as well. One tradition I started on Parker’s first Easter was filling plastic eggs with various crackers and whatnot that we had around the house, and we are continuing that this year as well (although I added in a few sweets for Parker now that he’s older). I did not think it was necessary for an infant to receive candy in their Easter basket, and he absolutely loved opening the eggs to see what was inside, so it was a win win. Since we celebrate Easter at the river, I also picked up some river themed gifts: new swimsuits all around, sunglasses for Austin, and water shoes for Parker.
5. Do you like video games?
Not at all. As a child the closest I came was playing Tetris on my Game Boy and playing an awesome computer game called Midnight Rescue (you read clues to save the school from the Master of Mischief– thinking of you cuz). I keep the electronics that our kids are exposed to to a bare minimum, and if they are interested in playing video games someday I imagine we’ll limit the type of games they can play and the amount of time that can be spent playing.
6. Do you speak another language?
No. I learned some Spanish in high school, but unfortunately I never became fluent in it. When my husband and I took a vacation to Puerto Vallarta a lot of it came back to me, and I really wanted to learn it again. Alas, other things are higher priority right now, but maybe someday.
Happy Easter everyone!