It is Easter morning. Early, early on Easter morning. Mom is sleeping in, but that doesn't prevent the flurry of activity by us kids. My sister Jane is the first to awaken and proceeds to wake the rest of us, me, Rob and Paul. Pat and Tom are clued into the no Easter Bunny thing so are sleeping in on this cool April morning.
I wake up, rub my eyes and crawl out of bed in my pajamas bearing number 40 which also happens to be the number Charlie West, the punt returner and defensive back for the 1970 Minnesota Vikings. West is a relative no-name among the ranks of the multiple stars on the Vikings, a lunch-pail kind of average athlete. But when you love football like I do, and are given a pair of pajamas with a random number on them, you find out who it was, and you follow them. Charlie West was my Deion Sanders.
I quickly shake the sleep out of my head and go downstairs to begin the hunt for my Easter basket. The magic of the Easter bunny is under a bit of scrutiny in my own mind at the moment, but now is not a time for questioning. I'm much happier living in the moment and searching for the dental nightmare that has my name on it.
The first place I look is the front hall closet. It seems like a logical place to start, being right at the front door where the big hopper would have to pass. Being no sign of anything there, I race to the broom closet between the kitchen and the living room. I find one of Jane's basket there, but being true to the family "don't ask, don't tell" policy I don't tell her.
After a couple more stops, I find my basket in the drum of the electric dryer. I recognize it by its green woven handle. The basket is piled high with chocolate and colored goodness. The best part is the foot tall solid chocolate bunny that serves as the anchor. A perennial favorite among us kids, we gnaw on them for days on end. It is not unusual to see half eaten rabbits in various stages of consumption sitting in our refrigerator at any given time during the week after Easter. Labeling them is not necessary, as we memorize the stages each is at. If yours was gone however, quick, unwitnessed gnawings from a siblings rabbit, is certainly fair game.
With some verbal cues for Paul who can't seem to find his, we eventually all find our baskets. The gorging before breakfast begins in earnest. Jelly beans, Peeps, malted milk eggs, and a peanut butter egg all go down before our bacon, eggs and Mom's specialty, Sara Lee coffee cake - a Sunday breakfast favorite.
After breakfast, we dress in our uncomfortable Easter best and Mom takes us all to the Cathedral for Easter Service. "Hurry up, it's Easter and parking is going to be a bear!" Mom shouts from the bottom of the stairs.
We park a half a block away on Summit Avenue and walk into the glorious, majestic God castle. It's high ceiling takes my breath away. I immediately look heavenward and admire the artistry and engineering of the architects, builders, and painters that created this for the Creator who created them.
The organ begins and with much pomp and circumstance the Archbishop follows the candles and crucifix up to the altar. The music, singing and majesty echoes off the poured concrete walls and even as a distracted kid, I cannot help but stop for a time and feel the power of God pouring out of the organ pipes, and the voices of the congregation.
The common man praising an uncommon God for an unforgettable sacrifice.
This is one holiday that the crucifix, with all of it's blood and gore, makes me appreciate the gift we were all taught about in the Catholic school system.
Being a kid however, the shock and awe wears thin about 20 minutes into the hour long service. During the drive to church, I'd eaten all the jelly beans I'd stashed for the service, so could do nothing but grind it out, recite my prayers and responses when I remembered and carry out the Holy yoga routine of sit/stand/kneel when cued to do so.
When it is all done, the choir closes with "Christ the Lord has risen today, Hallelujah," as they do every Easter. It is Mom's favorite part of the Mass, as she reminds us every year. As I sing along I understand why. It is melodious and beautiful and I can hear my mother singing with joy and sweetness.
At the end of the Mass, I realize that, while the sugar-coated gluttony of two hours prior was glorious in it's own way, it paled in comparison to the spectacle of God I'd just witnessed. It pitched temporary satiation against eternal comfort, short-term excitement versus long-tern expectancy.
As an eight year old kid, I was thankful for that comfort.
And I still am.
Happy Easter everyone.