I hope your holiday was as happy as mine. Our Easter traditions are so different from the traditions of my childhood. I grew up in a crowd of egg hunters. My parents’ driveway looked like a used car lot. Everyone came for lunch. Mom and my sisters cooked. I played in the backyard. At noon, we ate deviled eggs, ham, and broccoli-rice casserole.
After Bacon and I married, we moved to San Antonio where Easter means fiesta for the Mexican-American community. Last week, my neighbor told me he expected thirty at his house for lunch. He’d just put up a new basketball goal to occupy is his son and the cousins. “Why do they all want to come to my house?” The answer was easy—food, a new hoop. It sounded like fun to me. Yesterday, the street in front of his house looked like the used car lot of my youth. I didn’t count the cars, but I could hear the party going on in the backyard.
At our house, it was just the four of us. We live far away from extended family, but we’ve eked out traditions all our own— colored eggs for breakfast and gifts for my big girls in their babyhood Easter baskets. No one, not even the dog was spared the crush of a confetti-filled egg. A cascarone cracked over my head meant I was loved. I wore the flecks of bright paper and random eggshells all day as my badge of remembrance.
This was the day I was warned about. Nine years ago, when my six-year-old performed the perfect stroke, her coach yelled across the pool deck. “Get ready to get up early, mom. This kid’s gonna be a swimmer.” Everyone likes to hear great things about their kids. Most of us are thrilled when they exhibit athletic prowess, especially at six. I was beyond proud.
What I didn’t understand was the get up early part.
In swimming, hierarchy is built into the schedule. The better you swim, the earlier you have to show up for practice. Today, Cherry graduated from late nights to early mornings. It’s dark at 6:15 a.m. That was the time on the mini van’s dashboard clock when I delivered her to the front door of the natatorium. She got out of the car without saying a word. The sound of silence, if you’ve ever had to wake a teenager from a cozy cocoon so she can dunk her sleep-deprived body in chilled water, is a gift from Heaven. Will she hate it? Will practice be too hard? Cherry has never been a morning person. Will she settle for being average, so she won’t have to get up so early?
An hour and half later, she got back into the car.
“Can I just go to sleep, now?” Then she smiled. “Coach talked for thirty minutes. Thirty minutes that I didn’t have to swim at all.”
“What did he say?”
“Focus on what you’re doing and don’t waste time.”
“For thirty minutes, he said that? Thirty minutes you could’ve been swimming?”
“I know. Right?”
I blew a sigh of relief. She survived the early morning plunge and lived to joke about it. Now, on to biology class. I drove through rush-hour traffic while she put on her makeup and shook out her wet hair.
We’re celebrating Bacon’s birthday with our family tradition, birthday cake for breakfast. His choice this year, German Chocolate. When your birthday begins with presents and cake, no matter what else happens, you’ve already had a great day.
My mother was the a middle child of ten. With a business to run and a platoon of children, Grandma didn’t have a spare second, but she never forgot a birthday. Every year, my mother looked under her breakfast plate for a special surprise. I can imagine all of my aunts and uncles as children sitting around my Grandma’s battleship-sized dining room table. They’d tell my mom, “Check under your plate.”
Grandma had over thirty grandchildren. On my birthday, I could count on a card from her arriving in the mail, usually with a five dollar bill inside. After Grandma died, my mother found a date book in her belongings. In my Grandma’s cursive next to the days of the year were the names of those she loved. The full pages speak well of her life.The book’s mine now. I love having something of hers that’s so personal.
Our tradition is adapted from my grandma’s card under the breakfast plate. Earlier, when we were out shopping for Bacon’s gifts, my daughters reminded me. “You’re baking tonight, aren’t you? We need birthday cake for breakfast.”