By LORRAINE V. MURRAY, Commentary | Published April 2, 2015
“How does my hair look?,” my mother asked anxiously as she peered into the mirror. On that Easter morning long ago, she wanted her hair to be perfect, but in Miami the weather had already turned hot, the humidity was rising—and hairstyles were doomed to fizzle.
I ran a comb through my own limp locks and dressed quickly in a frothy dress with a crisp sash and puffy sleeves. My father was waiting outside in a patch of shade provided by a palm tree, taking a few puffs on his cigar before we headed to the Church of the Little Flower in Coral Gables.
The family fasted before Mass, and my parents rolled their eyes on the ride to church as my sister and I complained bitterly that we were starving to death. Finding a parking space was tricky, but before long we all crammed into a pew redolent of aftershave and perfume and lilies.
During Mass my sister and I surreptitiously elbowed each other to discourage encroachment on our separate territories. I did my best to focus on the prayers, but in the back of my mind I was taking inventory of the contents of my Easter basket.
I would quietly toss out the jelly beans, I decided, as I’d always disdained fruity candies, and would pawn off the overly sweet, cream-filled eggs on some kid later in the day. By clearing out these unwanted items, I could better turn my attention to the foil-wrapped, milk chocolate eggs my aunt and uncle sent every year from New York.
I could also do justice to the large grinning chocolate bunny that sat center stage in the basket, completely unaware that he would be sacrificed to my hunger in a few hours.
“Move over,” my sister hissed, giving me a sharp nudge that brought my mind back to the present—the Gospel reading about Jesus rising from the dead.
Rather than being amazed at the miraculous tale, I took it very much in stride. After all, I knew Jesus was God, and I knew God was love, and neither of these can ever die.
“Shut up,” I whispered to my sister.
When Mass was over, there was a big stampede to the parking lot because everyone wanted to get dinner in the oven, set the table and don comfortable clothes, which in Miami always meant shorts and flip-flops.
I couldn’t wait to get home to play with my latest stuffed animal—a plump, pastel-colored rabbit that I was eager to love. Granted, he wasn’t 12 feet tall like the one in my dreams, but he would certainly do.
And he would get along well with the rest of my menagerie, I concluded, as long as he humbled himself in the presence of animals that were older and wiser than he.
Before long, company was pouring into the house—aunts and uncles, cousins and family friends—and while my father mixed cocktails, my mother put the finishing touches on the leg of lamb and manicotti.
Meanwhile, the cousins showed off their plush animals, which prompted a few battles in which rabbits and ducks substituted nicely for machine guns. Not even the kids’ screams, however, could ruffle the adults who were munching on canapés and sipping scotch and sodas on the patio.
Today nearly all the aunts and uncles are gone, plus my parents and family friends. I don’t know what happened to the rabbit I so carefully doted on—nor do I know what happened to the innocence of those days.
But I still thrill to hear the Gospel reading on Easter morning, and still look forward to feasting on a chocolate rabbit waiting for me at home. I still believe that Jesus rose from the dead because he is God and because he is love.
And since I know love never dies, I trust that someday I’ll celebrate another Miami Easter with my parents and relatives long gone. I see cocktails and chocolates, and children brandishing stuffed animals—and all of us together in our Father’s house.
Lorraine’s latest book is a fun-filled mystery, “Death Dons a Mask.” Artwork is by Jef Murray. Readers may contact the Murrays at firstname.lastname@example.org.