My Mother Shirley always tried her hardest, even when money was tight, to give me and my sister Pat a good Easter. Our Easter Baskets were always some type of Hat or Cap. I still remember the year of the Plastic Fedora. She would put a small amount of Easter Grass in the head wear, always green she did not like the pastel colored grass. There would be Peeps, Chocolate Bunnies, Brightly Colored Foil Wrapped Chocolate Eggs and lots and lots of Jelly Beans. Then the toys! I always got a model kit, some sort of flying toy; whirley gig, glider, kite or Frisbee. There would be smaller toys too. Plastic Toy Soldiers, Plastic Eggs filled with more Jelly Beans and Fuzzy Chicks and Bunnies.
My sister always got a Doll, A Game and some sort of outside toy; Ball, Jump Rope, Lawn Darts, etc. She would also get a lot of small toys similar to mine except instead of Toy Soldiers she would get small Plastic Animals or Dinosaurs.
My 11th Easter we were living in the roach infested duplex behind Saint Josephs Church in Topeka. This would be the first Easter away from my Grandmothers House. My Grandmother and Mother had an epic argument that had led to my Mothers eviction. Grandma had said us children could stay but Mom had to go. Mom was having none of that so here we were, on Easter, in a very different home from the wonderful and secure home us children had known all of our life. Mom was determined that Easter would go on as usual minus Church as the church we attended, First Church of the Nazarene, was also my Grandmothers Church home. The wounds were still fresh and Mom was still feeling very bitter.
Mom spent all night coloring hard boiled eggs and hiding them outside. Hiding them outside consisted of placing them in the Iris Bed between the side of the duplex and the alley and around a small brick patio behind the duplex. For all practical purposes the Duplex had no yard but Mom would not let that stop her. She managed to hide over a dozen eggs which me and my sister collected on Easter Morning while the sound of Easter Mass drifted on the clear and warm Spring morning.
After the eggs were collected we got our Easter Baskets (hats), and they consisted of the usual suspects (this was the year of the aforementioned Plastic Fedora). besides the Model, this year a 1956 Ford Truck, and a Kite there was something else. Mom had included in both my sister and my hats was a plastic giant blowup Rabbit. Now I am sure by now you are asking yourself; How did Shirley get all of that into a plastic Fedora? The answer is that my Mother was a Master Gift Wrapper and using an intricate series of Ribbon and Brightly Colored Tissue Paper she created a tower of Easter joy.
My Rabbit was yellow with a clear belly full of confetti and my sisters was purple with the same clear belly full of confetti. On the back of the bunny inside the belly was a joyous Easter Scene of the Easter Bunny with a basket full of Easter Eggs. In one hand the goofy looking giant yellow blowup bunny held an orange and green carrot. I was in that period between childhood and teenager; I felt I was too “Big” for this kind of toy yet I blew it up and took it outside. I sat on the curb by the alley turning it over and over, watching the confetti float inside. I sat the giant, yellow, blowup bunny by the purple blooming Iris’ and looked at it while I peeled an egg. I thought about how that would make a good Easter picture; maybe I would draw it later.
It was not long before my Mom came out and announced it was time for our annual Easter picnic. I took my Bunny inside and sat it on top of the dresser in my room. We left and stopped at KFC for fried chicken. My mother, me and my sister happily ate the Colonels secret blend of 11 herbs and spices at a coveted picnic table in Gage Park. After our repast my sister and I played upon the concrete animals in Animal Land. We then spent the rest of the afternoon at the Topeka Zoo which was crowded with other families celebrating Easter in a like manner. late in the afternoon we returned home.
I lay upon my small bed and stared at the blowup bunny on the dresser. I thought about Easters past. This one had been different because it wasn’t filled with Grandma’s cooking or the large family gatherings we usually had. We had not gone to church which seemed an odd thing to me. I did not totally understand the disagreement between my mother and my grandmother and it would be years before I did but to my eleven year old mind it seemed silly.
Soon I drifted off to sleep and within those final moments before the sandman visited I knew that my Mother had tried to give us the best Easter she could and she did.The giant yellow blowup Bunny sat upon that dresser until it eventually went to wherever giant yellow blowup bunnies go when their time has past. That Easter day of April 14, 1968 is long gone but my memory of it and its importance remains with me to this day.
HAPPY EASTER MOM!
-THE GYPSY- APRIL 12, 2020