- Cullman, Alabama


March 31, 2013

Southern Style: Easter thoughts

I think we can all safely agree that Easter, much like Christmas, has become much too commercialized. In the same breath, I’d have to admit that I really love all the Easter decorations and the spring bouquets that go on sale in the supermarkets.

I’m so ready for pastel colors! It makes me happy every spring to unpack my greens, pinks, blues and yellows and box up all that grey, black and brown.

Of course, I’ll have to leave a few sweaters and a jacket unpacked…it did snow this morning and the forecasters are predicting another dusting tomorrow.

I’m not going to let that dampen my spirits, though, because I know that the promise or renewal, rebirth and resurrection is being kept again this year, just as it has for the past millennia.

Isn’t it inspiring, awesome, and incredible that flowers, bulbs and seeds can sleep through much harsher winters than we have here and still push up through the soil to greet the sun each spring? It’s amazing to me that you can still find shrubs and plants blooming at the site of old homes long gone with the winds of time. Yet, these hardy plants soldier on, untended, to bring color and beauty to any who happen to stumble upon them.

Those are the kinds of plants that we need to cultivate more. They can withstand droughts, hard freezes and neglect. Often they are the first to bloom in spring.

We’ve all seen buttercups in old pastures and along the highway, forsythia is another plant that once established, can survive and thrive with no care, bridal wreath spirea with its slender branches lined with tiny white rose-like blossoms, and gorgeous Japanese quince in rose, white and peach colors, all of these are plant ‘em and forget ‘em species, as long as you remember to give the shrubs enough elbow room as they do tend to get very large.

Forsythia always reminds me of my mother. She loved the yellow splashes of color and would often pluck sprigs of it to fill my Easter basket. Most other children got lots of candy and surprises in their baskets — mine was usually filled with frilly new socks, ruffled panties, shiny new white patent leather shoes, and ribbons for my hair. The entire thing was hidden, covered by a huge “can-can” slip and tied with a big bow. I always tossed the slip aside, flung the shoes and socks in a corner and dug into the candy as fast as possible.

Six year-olds hardly ever appreciate finery over chocolate and I was definitely no exception. Now I realize that she put a lot of effort into making those Easter baskets, using what money she had to buy those ruffles and bows.

One particular Easter Sunday I skipped on ahead of her to get home. We only lived a block from the church, and she would naturally have stopped to chat for a minute before following me.

I had a mission that day. By the time she got there I had already crawled up under the house, still in my Easter finery, scratchy can-can slip and all. I can still remember the look on her face when I came out of that little crawl space door with a big smile and muddy knees, my shoes and socks scuffed and filthy…and my dress torn in one spot where I’d hooked it on a nail. She was horrified, mad and speechless. As was her habit, she never raised her voice (my mother never, ever, raised her voice) but gave me a look that has lasted a lifetime.

My dog, Brownie (who came to live with us when I was four and eventually died on my 18th birthday) had just had her first litter of puppies under the house. I couldn’t wait one more minute to see them, so I’d taken the opportunity of having those few precious minutes alone to take a quick peek. Of course, I had gathered them up, there were five, I think, and brought them out with me, Brownie following anxiously behind.

The thing was, I couldn’t hold onto all of them and crawl at the same time, so I’d taken off the delicate little pearl-buttoned sweater she’d just given me that morning and wrapping the puppies carefully inside, proceeded to drag them in the dirt alongside me.

There was a big forsythia bush near the door to the crawl space. She began to pull off several keen branches and stripped the leaves off the bottom third. I thought I was surely in for the switching of a lifetime, but no, she was gathering them for the table.

She never said a word.

I think about this every time the forsythias bloom.

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