Sunday, April 20, 2014

The Sunday Memory Drawer - Easter Sunday And All Those Religious Questions

It's a weird holiday on our calendar.  The first problem with Easter Sunday is that it's not consistent.  Sometimes it's in April.   Or, in other years, March.  It can be hotter than blazes.   Or you have six inches of snow on your doorstep.

Meanwhile, there is the day itself.  Unlike Thanksgiving and Christmas, when family gatherings were a requirement, there was less of a focus on the big holiday meal for Easter.  Sometimes we did.   Or, in other years, we didn't. 

There were one or two Easters when we got all dressed up and took a bunch of silly pictures out in a park or at City Island in the Bronx.  You see evidence of that as my mom poses for one of Dad's Technicolor slides with Bing Crosby Jr.    At the same time, there were several Easters where we never left the front of the television set.  Let's Go, Mets!   Let's Go, Mets!

There were gifts for Easter sometimes.  And then, sometimes, there weren't.   There was always a chocolate bunny and a basket full of candy.  Which my dad would eat most of since my parents were worried about cavities. 

A holiday celebration that was sometimes sweet and very frequently sour.

Yep, I could never get a handle on Easter Sunday.

Okay, there is the religious celebration and that was always stressed when I was a kid.  My grandparents didn't go to church all that much anymore, but they never missed Good Friday services.  Meanwhile, while we were a Protestant home with nary a religion-provoked dietary restriction, my own parents really pushed the "no meat" rule on Good Friday.  It was always grilled cheese sandwiches for dinner. 

Part of my confusion about this Easter stuff naturally came from an innocent child's questioning of what I learned in Sunday school.  On Good Friday, you're told that Jesus Christ was crucified on the cross and took three hours to die.  There was one kid in my neighborhood who was a religious nut.  He told me that the nuns in his school told him that the skies get dark every Good Friday from the hours of 12 noon to 3PM. 

Yeah, right.

Naturally, that very year, it happened just like he said.  Day turned into night due to an impending storm.  I peered out the window of my grandmother's living room at the doom and gloom.  Maybe there was something to this all.   Ever the skeptic, Grandma injected her usual logic.

"Oh, don't believe everything those crazy Catholics tell you."


My inward struggle also got contributions from my mother, who wasn't particularly religious but had dragged me to every Biblical epic that played at the RKO Proctor's Theater on Gramatan Avenue in Mount Vernon, New York.   We saw them all either first-run or in revival.

"The Story of Ruth."


"The Ten Commandments."

"King of Kings."


"El Cid."

"The Robe."

Whatever the film, most ended with Jesus dying on the cross and the subsequent resurrection.  The latter was another concept that had me raising my hand in question a time or two.

They put Jesus Christ in a tomb.   They blocked it with a stone.  But, by the third day, he was gone.   Risen to heaven.   His body was gone.

Okay, this happens to all people, right, Mom?

When my dad's brother, Uncle Fritz, died and was buried at Ferncliff, I had a novel idea.   Let's go up there and see if we can watch this happen.  I mean, you must be able to see these people coming out of their graves and going skyward.  I presented this idea to both my parents.   And got the vague response.

"It doesn't work like that."

But they told us that in Sunday school.  The pastor told us that.  Gee, we saw it happen just like that in "King of Kings."

"It's more complicated than that."

Uh huh.  Over the years of my life, I realized that those questions were at the very heart of Christian belief. 

So, along with the changing day and unplanned weather and the inconsistent holiday celebrations, that was the main reason I still can't figure out Easter Sunday.  Oh, I go to church on the day as I do every Sunday.  And we hear the story one more time. 

Perhaps that's the struggle that was originally intended. 

And then, to make the holiday even more confusing, I will then head to Dodger Stadium for a day game against the Diamondbacks.

Yes, Easter is weird for me all over again.

Dinner last night:  Pepperoni pizza.

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