When I was little, Mama would take me shopping for a new dress a few weeks before Easter. Our shopping day was fabulous fun with my mother. We would trek 70 miles into Nashville, go to one of the first Krystal’s downtown and eat piping hot doughnuts for breakfast. Then it was off to find the perfect dress.
One spring pre-Easter shopping trip ended with Mama and me not speaking for nearly a day. It all started after eating our doughnuts when I was ten years old. We walked to a children’s clothing store where I squealed when I saw all the beautiful dresses. I picked up a purple and white dress with a Peter Pan collar and smocking around the waste.
“Mama look, this is the prettiest dress in the whole wide world!” I exclaimed as I held it up for her to see.
She instead was holding a blue, soft brocade dress with a cape and said, “No, Lynn, this is the prettiest dress!”
I hated it, but Mama made me try it on anyway along with my selection. The truth is my mother loathed the color purple. The bottom line, after tears were shed and after a silent trip home, I wore that awful blue brocade dress to church on Easter Sunday morning.
Everyone loved the dress Mama chose, but to this day I still remember the prettiest dress in the whole wide world was the one some other lucky girl got to wear because her mama didn’t hate purple.
Every Easter, our Sunday School class started the morning singing my favorite hymn, “Up from the Grave He Arose!” I loved the way the song started out slow, low and sad, before boisterously rising to a mighty, victorious refrain.
I can’t sing a lick, but when it came to that song, I became Dolly Parton, belting the song with wild abandon while ignoring all the snickers. When I moved away from Tennessee as a young teen, my Sunday School class rose to sing my favorite Easter hymn as my farewell gift.
Easter Egg hunts were a big event at Grandpa’s house, where the family gathered to find the rainbow-colored eggs artfully hidden by my grandparents throughout the yard. There was always a golden egg which would gift the lucky finder a dollar bill from Granddaddy. I don’t remember getting the money many times, but you could hear the shouts of the cousin who would locate that well-hidden little nugget. Grandpa (my grandmother) loved Easter more than anyone and she would excitedly shout, “You’re getting close to hot!” if we were near the spot of a hidden rainbow egg. She couldn’t contain herself.
Years passed, and I continued the tradition of family Easters when my children hunted for eggs, dressed in finery, went to church and sang with wild abandon, “Up from the Grave He Arose!” Later, when they came home from college, they would bring friends to have Easter with us.
Our Easter Sundays were famous and distinctive. The food was outrageous, the church service over the top, the egg hunts filled with laughter and afterward, we all gathered to play baseball in the park with a plastic bat and any ball we could find.
Those days are now gone, and the children are scattered across the country. As life changes, many of us mourn the loss of family, of the good times and our Grandpa’s shouting, “Oops, you’re too cold now!” Those Easters when we gathered at the Easter table, held hands and never thought that one Easter day we would not celebrate together.
Life has a way of teaching us lessons every day. One of the pearls I learned is that instead of mourning the memories, celebrate them. I choose to celebrate the gift of having those shopping trips with Mama, my friends in Tennessee who sang my favorite song, the colorful eggs hidden in the yard and Granddaddy’s golden dollar. I cherish the folks who walked with me through my childhood and held my hand as we prayed.
I thank God for giving me the children who I shared many Easters with and who have given me the greatest of all gifts: themselves. I relish the fact that I still can’t wear purple on Easter because Mama would inevitably come down from heaven and tell me to wear blue instead.
The Lord in His glory created all the memories for me to take to my own grave and I sincerely thank Him. However, most of all, I am filled with humble gratitude because I believe in this song:
“Up from the Grave, He arose,
With a mighty triumph o’er His foes,
He arose a Victor from the dark domain,
And He lives forever with His saints to reign.
He Arose! He arose!
Hallelujah! Christ arose!”