We all have different family traditions for celebrating holidays. When we grow up, develop our own households and families, we tend to take those traditions along with us, insisting on making mom’s casserole/cookies for Christmas, hanging Dad’s angel at the top of the tree, or going to a church or synagogue at specific times. It’s our culture and provides continuity for the next generation.
When we’re young and starting out, it’s almost impossible to conceive anyone else has a tradition which is different than our own. Oh, but the expectations and traditions are wildly disparate. Sometimes we hit a home run, and sometimes we flop. Some days we’re the windshield, and some days we’re the bug.
As a kid, I was the first born baby in a very long time into both mom’s and dad’s side of the families….. probably received a little too much attention (hehe). When Easter rolled around, I had a couple of baskets from “Southern Grandma/Grandpa” who lived in Mississippi, northern Grandma/Grandpa, my parents always gave me a few, a huge basket from my maiden Godmother Aunt Dot, and Miss Wilma from across the street always had a basket for me……. and then there were a few baskets from the Easter Bunny. Thus, I hunted for Easter baskets, maybe 6-12 of them every year, not just the eggs. Gosh, I thought everyone did the same thing.
When I moved out and had my own apartment, I dated a New Yorker who was Jewish. We were pretty serious. He was okay with Christmas trees and Easter, but he didn’t have the decorations. That part was up to me. Our first Easter celebration was scheduled to be at my apartment, in Miami, with his two kids (whom I adored), his mom (who was a blessing), and his sister (stunning woman), who had no kids. That’s six people altogether, right?
Obviously, I needed at least 36 Easter baskets.
As a young exec, I was making pretty good money, but 36 Easter baskets would be expensive. What to do? With a month to plan it all, it became clear, I was going to have to make the baskets. I hit the garage sales and never paid more than $.25 for a plain basket. I also bought OLD stuffed bunnies, and laundered them. Spray paint made the baskets Easter colors, six colors, each person had a different color (made sense to me….. at the time). I found off season floral for cheap prices and ripped them apart, gluing flowers back on the edges of baskets. I found little frogs, butterflies, bumblebees on wires, masculine stuff for the guys, all kinds of things at bargain prices.
Sure, I burned the heck out of my fingers with a glue gun, but became better as time passed. Sure, I needed a few plastic eggs, and the golden eggs (which contained a new $1 bill), but didn’t have to buy too much candy at all. I made cookies, chocolates, and popcorn balls to fill up the baskets as well. I also found little games, pinball games, pegboard game, search and word find puzzle books, goofy goggles, and always a squirt gun,……. you know……. like the stuff which was in my Easter baskets as a kid. For the adults, a few nicer things, lotion/soaps, a favorite book, new sunglasses, etc.
After 3 1/2 weeks, I had 41 Easter Baskets. I sighed, that would have to be enough. Time to plan the menu for Easter brunch. No problems, there.
When my guests arrived, I was ready. My little penthouse looked like an Easter explosion, a warehouse for Peter Rabbit. Naturally, the kids would be eager to do their basket hunt first thing, right? It would be impossible to contain kids from that kind of excitement, right? But they were Jewish and didn’t know what to do. They never had an Easter basket.
Talk about a culture clash.
Yet, kids have universal interests, and candy, cookies, and squirt guns always work. It was kind of rough going at first, my preconceived notions fell flat, but the kids swung into action and made the day. Even my potential Jewish mother-in-law had fun hunting for her baskets.
When I left Miami, one of the movers from Wheaton Freight Lines asked me, “Lady, how many Easter baskets do you have?” It was his task to pack them, and he couldn’t figure out how to wrap my precious but cheap-as-heck artwork. He treated each basket like a Faberge egg. Comical.
I made it back to New Orleans for Easter and we dug out my hand-made trinkets, the Easter Baskets. Dad was thrilled, it had been a long time since he had a good holiday. We went overboard that year, but I had to make a few more baskets for new friends added to the mix.
As I settled into Mississippi, married, bought the B&B, had kids, more Easter baskets were necessary for in-laws and new friends. And more baskets for treasured staff members, girlfriends, and their children. In the attic workshop, we made hundreds of Easter baskets over the years.
When Gunner was little, he thought it was his duty to hunt for all 60+ baskets by himself. He really didn’t care so much what was in them, he was thrilled with the hunt…. 100% American boy.
When Dad was besieged with cancer, I had to spend many weeks in New Orleans that spring. While caring for him, I turned the garage into a workshop, making Easter baskets. Even though he was very ill, he insisted on going to garage sales with me, to scout for baskets. He claimed he had a better eye for a bargain than I did. It’s one of the last things we did together. He understood…… and so did I….. it wasn’t about Easter baskets at all. He died three days after Easter.
When Big T came along, he had 4 daughters…….. obviously, we needed 30-40 more Easter baskets, but this time, some of the girls were old enough to help make their own.
With Big T, we worked with the schools for Easter, doing their annual Easter Egg hunts in our back yard. It was 19 classes of kids, 17,000 eggs, and sheer bedlam. 19 parties, 19 cakes, orange juice, fresh fruit, beautiful white skirted tables and wild floral toppers, a visit from a staffer dressed as the Easter Bunny……. What a wonderful time. And Mr. T’s golden eggs always contained loose change or fresh $1 bills. Of course, the schools don’t allow Easter egg hunts anymore. It’s such a shame. The kids had a great time.
As I bring the Easter baskets down from the attic one more year, I realize Gunner is older and all he cares about are Jelly Beans and licorice, his favorites. I was kind of sad. No big Easter basket hunt this year, no parade this year……. but then a small glimmer of hope……. A few of the girls are married, and now we have a grandchild……. of course, more Easter Baskets are required even though they won’t be here this year. Gosh, I better get busy….. maybe?
And just like magic……
This morning, I received a Facebook message and a photo from an old staff member. He worked for me when he was in high school. Now, he is married with three kids of his own. I loved that kid and truth be told, if I could have hand-picked a son, I would have picked him. The message contained a pic was of him, in his garage, with dozens of Easter baskets. The message, “Whaddaya think, Miss D? We’re ready!!”
Yeah, he definitely could have been my son.
And the years will pass…… and we’ll have to re-glue a flower, or re-arrange an errant bumble bee, but the baskets will be arranged. We will make cookies and popcorn balls for whoever may be here and whoever they bring with them.
Gosh, I can’t wait for more grandchildren. We really are blessed.