It happens… if you don’t like the reminiscences and voyage into the sappy, softened memory-thing, scroll on by. I’m sure you will find something more to your taste. However, I’m going to spend just a moment traveling in my own past.
This morning (it is Easter), I visited a house of Christian worship. This is something that doesn’t happen over frequently with me as an adult. However, it was a rather common occurrence of my youth. It always manages to trigger memory overloads as I see familiar faces, and, whether I want to be or not, am recognized by those same faces. As the years have gone by, there are fewer of the faces I find familiar… and fewer still who recognize me. It’s bitter sweet for me because I love fading into the back and observing without inciting riots or high pitched noises. However, it is a very lonely feeling when you realize that many of those who would recognize you are gone, and those who are still there do not recognize you due to the changes (and age) that makes you… well, unrecognizable.
It is no wonder that my mind drifts on these occasions to points in my life where (and when), like the familiar watering hole in Boston, everybody knew my name… often the full one… and proclaimed it regularly at full volume because of something or other I had done. I remember Easter Sundays of years past when after all the prerequisite ecumenical festivities, my family would gather at my great-grandmother’s home to show off our new Easter finery (which was ditched in favor of jeans and t-shirts as soon as proper oohs and ahs were performed). Afterwards, there was copious amounts of food, fun, more food, egg hunting, additional helpings of food, laughing and practical jokes…passing out from food… you get the picture.
When I talk about these family gatherings, I am not speaking of a mere constellation or a few close relatives, I’m talking about nearly hundred individuals including the children, grandchildren, and great grand children of the woman for whom I was named. Many, many dozen eggs would be boiled and dyed to accommodate the traditional family egg hunts. There were rules… to which no one really paid attention. People played dirty. The only unbreakable regulations were for the “littles.” There were always eggs “hidden” in such a way that they were clearly visible and reachable by those under the age of 10 and the height of 3 feet. Adults, teens, and adolescents who were older and taller were forbidden these finds.
Everything else… fair game. There were years that acquiring some of the deviously hidden ova meant risking life and limb. Definitely extra points for courage and sometimes a strong stomach were given. Participants ranged in age from toddler to nonagenarian. The hiding was done in teams (there were several dozen eggs, remember). The teams generally consisted of the trickier members of the clan, and their favorite trick was to hide in plain site. Sometimes, however, they were so good at this, even the hiders could not find them afterwards… leading to some interesting occurrences in the warmer months of the year.
One of my favorite memories of my great grandmother’s home was the violet carpet. There was a patch of ground that was literally so covered with the small purple flowers that you could not step without stepping on several. In my young, imaginative mind, that one area became a magical place where the fae held sway and the courts of elven royalty hosted feasts and balls.
As an adult, I know that many people work hard to eradicate the broad-leaved interlopers that mar their golfing green-like yards. I know it’s a weed. I really do, but when I found a similarly enchanted patch of ground behind my own house, I could not bring myself to rid the yard of the hundreds of tiny purple and white faces that sprang up each year. At least each time I see them, I can revisit, however briefly a time when I wasn’t rushing around, overwhelmed with obligation, or irritable from trying to be realistic and responsible all the time. For just a moment, I can look at the violet carpet and believe in magic.