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A GOOD FRIDAY
3 April 2010
It was mid-afternoon, long after I'd finished my leftover Sesame Chicken from yesterday's lunch, before it dawned on me that this is Easter weekend and that today was Good Friday and I was now going to go to hell because I'd eaten meat on Good Friday.
It's been a long time since I've seen the inside of a church on Easter weekend, or followed the Catholic dietary rules for meatless Fridays or fasting during Lent, but I do occasionally think about it. Those old "you're going to hell if you don't" threats do linger, even this many years later.
(And now that "you're going to hell if you DO" doesn't seem to bother a lot in the clergy about more heinous things than eating meat on Good Friday somehow it doesn't seem important at all any more.)
When you grow up going to a Catholic grammar school, the whole Lenten cycle takes on huge importance and Easter is a very big religious deal. For a little kid, "Lent" just meant "giving up" something -- usually candy. My father always gave up liquor to prove he wasn't an alcoholic, and then had a gin fizz before breakfast on Easter morning.
One year I decided to go to Mass every morning before school during Lent...and then got punished by the nuns because I had to leave Mass before it was over in order to get to school on time. Apparently it didn't count until you stayed until the last minute.
We had various ceremonials in the church which shared the grounds with our school. There was always the Stations of the Cross on Friday afternoon, where we all stood, knelt, genuflected and responded to prayers as the priest went around to the various pictures on the wall depicting Jesus journey from his arrest to his crucifixion.
As I got older and joined the choir, we spent Lent preparing for a magnificent Mass to be sung to the accompaniment of the church's magnificent pipe organ.
My grammar school friends and I tried to do something to mark the passage of the 3 hours Jesus hung on the cross. There was a big "mountain" (read "hill" -- it's a high rise apartment now!) near my house and we all went there with prayer books. We each staked out a spot where we could meditate. But we were kids. I don't know if we lasted an hour before giggling started. But we tried!
Easter morning there would be an egg hunt before Mass. Since we had no back yard, the Easter bunny hid the eggs all over the living room. I never did figure out how he got in. I mean, Santa floated down the light well from the roof to the house, but where did the Easter Bunny come in?
Easter dinner was usually at my grandmother's, where she would prepare a lamb (with mint jelly) or ham (with a pineapple-maraschino cherry sauce), often with a salad I hated (don't say "celery root" to me!), and where I learned to love Cheetos, which were always served with drinks. (It's funny how the foods of holidays made more of an impression on me than the religion of the holidays!)
We never gave our own kids the foundation of a religious Lenten-Easter season. For one thing they went to public school, so they didn't get the indoctrination of the church. And I was very big on Easter bunnies and egg hunts and Mass was something to get out of the way before we could go home and have a special Easter breakfast, usually with some special bready thing I would make (hot cross buns for several years).
We had Easter egg hunts out in the back yard, but the kids learned pretty quickly to scope out where they were all hidden from their upstairs bedroom windows before going down to get their baskets and go outside to hunt.
We always had a good time making colored eggs. I learned to make sugar eggs one year, with little scenes inside them, and wanted to make them for each of the kids, but the kids wanted to make their own. I don't know how many years ago that was, but it may have been 30 years ago. I believe I still have those eggs, packed away in a Tupperware container that I haven't opened in a very long time. I wonder if they are still in one piece.
I wonder what kind of memories Bri is going to have about her Easters growing up. She is going to be with us this year, at Uncle Norm's house for Easter dinner, staying at Grandma Rynders' house the night before. Tom texted me that there will be an Easter Egg Hunt in the morning, so my plan is to leave here at the crack of dawn to get down there to watch her hunting for eggs. Walt is riding home with Tom and Laurel so he'll be there too.
But I ate meat on Good Friday and I won't be at Mass on Easter Sunday and I'll try not to let my granddaughter know that I'm probably going to go to hell eventually.
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