Easter Egg

As I have written in the past, I have PTSD. I developed this first when my grandmother died and I was 8 years old. I had the unfortunate experience of finding her body as it took its last breath, and it wrecked my little brain something fierce. One of the PTSD symptoms that I experience is that when a traumatic event happens, I completely block out the time surrounding the event. For instance, I do not remember the entirety of third grade. One of my first memories of that time would be spring of third grade, one year after my grandmother passed, and I was walking around the block with my school therapist who was telling me what great work I had done. Do I remember seeing a school therapist before then? Nope, but I did for a year. Anyway, let’s fast forward to now.

I don’t remember Easter last year. The thing is, two Friday’s after Easter, my mother fell into a coma. I was the one that found her, and it was eerily similar to finding my dying grandmother. In many ways, it was different however- because this time I knew what to do. I did not panic, I woke dad and we did our best to rouse her, and we called the paramedics. And that’s the one thing I remember from the three weeks surrounding the incident. When I celebrated St Patrick’s Day not long ago, that felt to me like the last holiday I celebrated with my mother. But in actuality, it was Easter.

I looked through some photos in an effort to pinpoint certain memories regarding Easter and my mother. I found the photo that I included here, of her on Easter in 2020. I remember her being very sad that she could not hold the family brunch she had been doing for decades, but we had a nice little brunch just the five of us, and it was lovely. We maintained this throughout the Covid years, and last year she swore she was bringing back Easter with a vengeance for 2023. Of course, that didn’t get to happen, and it’s not like I was trying to host this year. However, I am considering doing something next year, in celebration of her.

My mother loved Easter, to an irrational degree, in my mind. As a child, it was a three-day affair. It began on Good Friday, where we would go to her high school best friend  Patty’s house. Our families would attend Stations of the Cross together, and return to Patty’s for tuna fish sandwiches and tomato soup. From noon until 3:00pm, we would quietly relax around the house, mostly listening to the Jesus Christ Superstar soundtrack, and- as my child-self would say- wait for Jesus to die. Then we would dye Easter eggs. On Holy Saturday, me and Mom and Dad would trek to the Broadway Market to buy Butter Lambs and Redlinski sausage. Then she would go home and begin the cooking and housework- my mother prided herself on her homemaking and hostess skills. And I will not lie to you, she was a pro! She always said that in another life she would have been in designer, and she would have been great at that. Then on Sunday, once Jesus was risen, we would go to church, which was usually standing room only. Then back to the house, where the family would meet for a brunch of epic proportion. It was an important three days for her.

So no, I don’t remember last Easter. I don’t remember the last holiday I spent with my mother, at least in her full capacity. But I do remember every Easter beforehand, from the little Covid brunches to our big family parties that spilled out into the backyard. I can say however, that while I am not sad as I expected to be, I am missing her a lot right now. I never really cared for Easter, what with the ex-Catholic of me and all, but it was so special to her, that made it special to all of us.

This Sunday we ate our sausage and we had our butter lamb, and Dad invited his best bud over for some drinks and food. It was fine. Nobody cried. Alas, it did not have the feel of Easter’s past. Both Bernie and Mark commented that it just wasn’t the same, that it just did not feel like Easter. Oh well. I guess we can try again next year.

Momma, Easter 2020

40 Days

One of the Catholic Church’s favorite things to play is the waiting game…we have Advent, the four weeks prior to Christmas, and then we have Lent, the 6 weeks before Easter.

We.  I still, automatically, type the word “we.” I mentioned to Mark this morning that Catholicism is very much still a part of me even though I have shirked the religious aspect. I suppose I am still a cultural Catholic in many ways, all due to my indoctrination into the church at a very young age. For instance, during Lent one is supposed to observe abstinence from meat on Friday’s. Even now, more than a decade after leaving the church, I feel guilty eating a pepperoni pizza on a Friday in March. The whole shebang starts with Ash Wednesday, which was yesterday, wherein the faithful get a cross made of ashes upon their forehead. From dust you come, to dust you shall return. It is a symbol of repentance and belief as well as mortality. It is to symbolize beginning of the 40 days Jesus spent wandering the desert.
The ashes are made from burnt Palms from the previous years Palm Sunday, and you are not supposed to wipe them away. So it was completely normal, you see, for me to be in a school full of children with dirt on their foreheads one day a year.

And oh! Then there’s the activity of Lent, and not just of the food variety. During Lent, one is asked to give up a pleasure or a vice as a sacrifice and act of repentance. So, every year we all had to give something up. I remember one year when a schoolmate of mine’s mother moved their television set out to garage for the entire 40 days, forcing her kids to give up TV. I routinely gave up candy, which was simple because I wasn’t allowed candy in the first place. I don’t think my mother ever took this into consideration, she was always just happy that I was “working on my weight.” When I was in high school, there was a girl who gave up Lent for Lent, as she was Pentecostal and attending a Catholic School. I recall her getting some heat for this comment, which I found to be brave and bold and intriguing. When I left school though, I stopped giving things up. I stopped eating fish on Friday’s, and I stopped getting ashes on my forehead.

Obviously, if you are a regular reader, you know that I am a bit of a pagan nowadays. So, it probably surprises you none at all that I am going to tell you that the Christian’s stole Easter from the pagan’s Spring Equinox festival. Much like the feast of Saint Brigid, which I recently wrote about, Easter was appropriated from the pagans.  Shocking turn of events, am I right?

This morning Carey asked me about Ash Wednesday. She thinks she noticed more crosses on people’s foreheads this year than ever before. Myself, I didn’t see a single one. But that’s probably a good thing because I was still triggered all damn day.

As soon as I realize it was Ash Wednesday, I thought of years of arguments with my mother, starting from when I was 16 and taking confirmation class. Her and I were so close, finally, to seeing eye to eye spiritually, but I knew I would never truly take her away from her home, which was the Church. When we had her funeral, it was a great big Catholic Mass at a great big Catholic Church, attended by girls who went to Catholic School with her, and many Catholic nuns who knew her well.  When Father Bill, a former priest at my elementary school, invited everyone up for communion, my father rose and accepted it. I looked behind me and I realized no one else got up. Not me or my sister; certainly not my husband or kids, none of whom were eligible to receive it anyway. I don’t even think I saw any of my friends move, and it reminded me of an article I read once about a spiritual awakening supposed to occur on planet Earth in the early to mid 2000s. I made a note in my phone to write a blog about this observation, but of course that was in between the funeral Mass and breakfast, so the note kind of got lost in the shuffle. But the article expressly said that we would throw off the shackles of religion. We would learn to live spiritually and harmoniously without it. Future generations would be taught that it was a general mistake, which only brought about greater division, and kept us as humans from reaching our greatest potential. Geez,  do I wish I could cite this article for you, but I got it off MySpace in 2004. Anyway, I think that’s happening now.

This blog is kind of all over the place today, huh? It’s because I’m all messed up in the brain over the Catholicism, and while I quit the church in my twenties, it has taken until my late 30s to really start my deconstruction. And honestly, with my mother’s passing, I feel very little guilt regarding my spiritual path. All of that washed away when I stepped out of that church, knowing that I would never have to set foot in one again if I didn’t want to. Of course, I will attend a wedding or funeral, but no one is ever going to force me to go to church again. This brings us to a bittersweet silver lining, but I truly feel in my gut that when mom died, her soul looked around and said “oh, Brig was right,” because I have more freedom spiritually since her passing then I have ever felt, and I do believe she gave that to me.

Spring Has…Sprung?

Well, it’s mid-April and Sunday is Easter so I guess it’s Spring now?

I mean, it’s kind of cold and definitely raining and gray and generally “blah” outside, but here I am looking at the calendar and yup…definitely Spring.

I usually count Easter as the beginning of Springtime, likely because of my early indoctrination into the Catholic Church.  I left such organizations many years ago, but I still hold a little solemnity for the Easter Season, from Palm Sunday (when Jesus rode into town on a donkey,) to Good Friday, at least .  Today is Holy Thursday, for those not in the know.  Dinner Party Day, as I like to call it, but most scholars refer to it as The Last Supper, when Jesus gave his apostles the sacrament of the holy communion.  It is “celebrated” by some guy at church washing the feet of other guys at church.  Tomorrow is Good Friday, where nothing good happened, and they crucified a dude for wanting to help the poor, sick, and needy.  (Same sh*t, different millennia, amiright?)  This is celebrated with the Stations of the Cross, which is like an art showing with a terrible audiobook playing in the background.  Then Holy Saturday…which is just a weird one.  See, the apostles held a vigil outside of Jesus’ tomb that day, waiting for his resurrection.  Apparently, they stayed all day, yet still somehow no one was there the next morning to see Jesus come strutting out.  No, Easter morning was when “the women” (including Jesus’ wife, but whatever, Catholic Church,) arrived and found that he was already gone.  Yay Easter!  A celebration of a gruesome death followed by slight confusion!  Wait no…we’re celebrating the resurrection part.  At least, that’s according to my 12th grade Religion teacher.

But as I said, I’m done with all that.

So instead, I think of my garden.  I just cleaned it out and got it ready, and now I need to do a little weeding and lay some new mulch, and some greenery is already starting to show.  My front lawn is a mud pit, so that will take more time, and the trees remain bare, but I know it is coming.  I know one day soon I will look out the window and see grass and leaves and sunshine, not this windy, cloudy, terrible day I see right now.  After all, April showers do bring May flowers.

So, next week, I guarantee no update for Monday because I am having cataract surgery on my right eye.  If I think of it on Sunday I might write, but don’t expect anything.  I will hopefully be back Thursday to tell you all about it.  In the meantime, I’d appreciate if you took to literally any of my socials and watched the video I made today for my piece “Garbage.”  It recently lost it’s home, and instead of finding it a new one, I have built a house for it on my TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook.  So, I ask you to check it out (@hamneggs716) and share it or like it or leave a comment, because I am letting this little guy fly free out there and it needs all the love it can get. 

So do i.  And well wishes, too.  Big week ahead.

Anyway, that’s all for today.  Happy Monday, my friends.

A Drive-by Easter

Last year, and every year before it, my family celebrated Easter at my mother’s house.  It was the big party she threw each year, the holiday she hosted, and one I looked forward to simply for that reason.  When I was young, we would first hunt for our baskets, then go to church, then rush home to get the food ready for the rest of the family when they arrived.  We would eat breakfast together and everyone would wear their Easter clothes, and sometimes it would be nice enough to go outside. 

Time moved on.  Mom still held on to that Easter basket hunt, but church was no longer part of the equation, once Ka passed.  I wasn’t much of a believer in Catholicism anymore, and my mother had her own personal reasons for having trouble going to Mass, so it sort of fell out of the day.  But brunch prevailed.  Still, the family would gather at our house and eat eggs and sausage and laugh and drink and generally be merry. 

But this year.

I started to feel crappy about the situation on Friday (more to come on that front, Thursday.)  I knew I wouldn’t see my grandma, and that is hard.  Since Poppa passed last month, I have been thinking about her daily and wanting to see her, but I stay home because Mark is still out there working and I don’t want to risk anything.  The only people I really see are Mark, my parents, sister, and the kids.  And even being around my parents, I am nervous.

However, my cousin Dominic, who is a musician, was having his first ever live Facebook show from his mothers’ basement to raise money for local businesses affected by Coronavirus.  I tuned in to find half of my family watching along with me…including my grandma.  It made me feel like we were connected for a moment.  Dom is a great guitar player and singer, and it was fun spending Friday night in my bedroom jamming out to his tunes.  I found a new song I like.  Another one inspired a poem.  I have said before how I love seeing all the art that is being created in this terrible time…my cousins’ contribution to that made me so happy.  For a little while, it felt like there was no quarantine, and that we were all at the bar enjoying one of his shows.

On Saturday, the kids were here.  Usually, my mother would organize an egg hunt and make them baskets, but this year that was a no-go on several accounts, one being that I was in the GD hospital AGAIN…but that’s beside the point.  My mother also wasn’t feeling great and no one wants to risk anything with the kiddos of course, so instead she and dad drove by and wished them a Happy Easter and dropped off a basket full of plastic Easter eggs filled with candy and money.  The kids were delighted, of course.

And then came Sunday.  We lounged around.  There was no panic.  No church for us or anyone, of course, though I could watch it on TV if I wanted to.  Mom came around and we went to grab coffee, then I wrote for a while before taking a shower and heading over to her house for brunch.

She did not hide baskets, because she did not make baskets, for the first time ever.  She did get us each a bag of sponge candy and some other treats, but just left them at our place settings.  As for the meal, it was just us-Mom, Dad, Mark, Bernie, and myself.  There was lots of food.  We ate, we drank, we laughed and were merry.  But I missed everyone else.

When I came home and realized Easter was done now, it was a letdown. I thought about how each of my aunts and uncles and cousins Easter’s must be-they have been going to my mom’s house for years and years.  This is the first many of them have had in their own homes.  I thought of my Gram, who I love and miss so much right now, and have never known an Easter without.

I started telling Bernie about Dom’s concert on Friday, though, and it made me smile to remember that for a second, a bunch of those people I had been missing were in the same place, even if we weren’t in the same place.  I think that during this horror story we call life right now, that’s the best thing we can hope for-connection with the people we love, no matter how.

Me with Gram, great-grandma Ag, and my aunts and uncles-Easter, sometime in the 80s.

Happy Easter

Today I write on a Saturday, because that eye surgery I previously mentioned was held over until this Monday.  I have been tasked with one mission this week, and that is to not get sick.  So far, so good.

I don’t go in for much at Easter because while I like free chocolate from my Momma I also dislike religion in general.  I spent the morning watching yet another cult documentary and realized that a lot of the feelings these people had are feelings I myself have had as a member of the Catholic church.  I can see too many parallels, and it upsets me.  Especially with the pomp and circumstance of my youth that was Easter week.

It would start on Palm Sunday when we would HAVE to go to church early to get our palms and have them blessed, and then they asked a bunch of children armed with branches to sit still and stay quiet for an hour.  I don’t know how we did it.

Then came Holy Thursday, which is when Jesus got together with his buddies and had a little Eucharist.  This is followed by Good Friday, a day in which we would not eat meat, nor do anything during the hours of noon and three, because Jesus is on the cross.  Early morning was usually taken over by the Stations of the Cross, which is like a really, really boring art exhibit.  Actually, I’ve been to some with no art, just markers, which just makes it boring storytelling.  I mean, I know what happens.  He falls.  He gets up.  He falls again.  It’s all very repetitive.  By the time they put the spear in his side I was thinking less about the sacrifice of Jesus and more about what’s for lunch.

Tuna, naturally.

Holy Saturday was always kind of a pain because you’re just waiting for Jesus to pop out and give you a chocolate bunny.  At least that’s how my young self understood it.  When I got older and started finding cracks in Catholicism, I became obsessed with the Easter story because Mary Magdelene was in it, and I am of the belief that she was Jesus’ wife.  Easter has as much to do with chocolate bunnies as it does the resurrection of a Messiah.  Which is very little, because we all know Easter is a pagan holiday centered around an equinox, just like Christmas.  And that’s what I like to think about on this “holy” day.

I like to think about life starting anew. About second chances.  About turning over new leaves and starting fresh.  That’s my idea of Easter; the world is becoming new again and so should you.  And for the religious folk, you can’t argue that that’s not what Jesus wants for you, to shed your dead weight and be the best you can be.  We may have different opinions about the symbolisms of the holiday, but we can at least agree that growth and renewal is always welcome.

Now, it’s Sunday.  I had a lovely brunch at my mother’s house with the family, and it looks like my tummy plans on digesting everything properly, which means I will be go for surgery in the morning.  I am a little nervous, mainly that something will go wrong, not of the surgery itself.  The very worst-case scenario is a situation I have been in before, so I know that I will be okay, but I don’t want to have to go through it again.   I’m also nervous that their nurses won’t find a vein, because I am like a Where’s Waldo book in that department.  Here’s hoping that I get a nurse who has the golden touch, like those troopers in the ER at Mercy.  Soon I will see the world clearly again, and I cannot wait.  All the more reason to be excited for the renewal that comes with springtime.  Anyhoo…happy Easter.

Good Friday

I do not consider myself a religious person, but rather a spiritual one. I started life being baptized Catholic, and by the church’s standards that means I am always Catholic. I went to Catholic school my entire life. My aunt was a Sister of Mercy and my mother herself was a former nun. Simply put, there was no escaping the Catholic church for me, and of course I believed everything I was taught at a young age. Some bits started to trouble me as I got older. It began at ten, when my church finally allowed girl altar servers and I realized that women could not be priests. It progressed at seventeen, as I was told during a homily that my friend Sahar would not be in heaven, as she was Muslim. Or my friend Mike, for that matter, who was gay. It ended at my sister’s First Communion when I was in my early 20s, and prior to the ceremony, as families were gathering in the church and greeting each other, the priest came out and actually yelled at us, citing that God could only be heard in silence. This was supposed to be a joyful celebration, and Mass had not even started. I consider this to be the straw that broke the Catholic camel’s back.

Now, I’ve always been open to other religions. So far as branches of Christianity go, I attended several youth groups as a child, and none of them were Catholic. I went to a Lutheran one, a Born-Again one, and a Baptist one, the latter being my favorite and the one I stuck with longest. I knew the Baptists weren’t for me in the same way I knew the Catholics probably weren’t, but their focus on Jesus was something I was not finding at my school, where they were already indoctrinating us with church dogma. I found a deeper connection to God through them and am eternally grateful. Also, this taught me that there were options.

When we learned about world religions, which was quite progressive for a Catholic school. I was enthralled. I found Buddhism and Hinduism to be the most interesting, with Islam a close second. I also looked at them through the same lens I had examined Catholicism, finding the bits I liked and felt were true to my core, and dismissing the parts I found to be out of date or restricting to the global community. I developed an interest in cults that I carry with me today. Seriously, one of my dream jobs is to be one of those people that pull others from cults and deprogram them. I find peoples blind faith to be fascinating. I studied other religions on my own time, learning about different world religions and specifically the assorted Christian sects. I have never found a “church” for me, and I don’t expect to, and so I make my own religion, my own set of morals and beliefs, and I have felt closer to God in this time than I ever did when I was younger.

I write all this because it is Good Friday. This is probably the one day a year I hold with some reverence. Christmas does not remind me of Jesus anymore, but rather the friends and family that we love and want to spend our time with. Easter makes me think of the rebirth of our planet, as spring pokes its head out from the ground. But Good Friday makes me think of all those years of Catholicism.

When I was young we had a tradition. My mother and I would go over to her friend Patty’s church for Stations of the Cross. Afterwards we would go to Patty’s for lunch, and then we had to play quietly from noon until three. Her sons would listen to the Jesus Christ Superstar soundtrack; her daughter and I usually hid in her room, biding our time. Afterwards we would usually dye Easter eggs, and then head home. It was a day I looked forward to, despite the church-going and the having to be quiet while Jesus died. I still think of Patty and her family every Good Friday, and I probably always will.

One year M asked me what the deal was with it, and I whipped out a Bible and gave a short lesson. They’re unbaptized and attend church on occasion, but don’t go to religion class or anything, so I was happy to oblige his questions. The four of them sat rapt as I explained how Jesus was persecuted and crucified, in the kid-friendly way I used when I taught religious education classes. They thought it was a good story I thought that was the best I could hope for.

In some ways Good Friday is like New Years Eve for me. It’s two days before Easter, and I see Easter as the real beginning of the year, when everything starts anew, but Good Friday is it a solemn and spiritual day for me. Not how it used to be, but it holds a remembrance of the life I used to live, and I choose to remember the best parts in that moment. Whatever your spiritual leanings as an adult, it is the experiences of your childhood that shape you, and this is the day I remember that.