Since my grandmother died two years ago, Easter has become a sort-of a "non-holiday" to me. Grammy Helen was the matriarch of our family, the one who hosted every single holiday at her house without fail—even when she was well into her 90s. There was never a question of what we were doing on any given holiday, birthday, or special occasion, because the answer was always the same: “We’re going to Grammy’s.”
With very little means, she could pull together the perfect party with every last detail attended to. Her house was always spotless with everything in it’s place and decorated to match whichever holiday we were celebrating (for Easter, this meant brightly colored plastic eggs hanging from the trees in the yard). The leaves of the table would be pulled out and spare chairs brought in, with a freshly ironed tablecloth and little handwritten name tags at each seat. Throughout the living spaces she'd have her white milk glass bowls (which I now have in my home) filled with Goldfish or potato chips to snack on while we were waiting for everyone to arrive.
On the fridge, in the most perfect penmanship that you can imagine, was listed out a menu for the day that detailed each dish she would be serving. Easter Dinner (or any holiday dinner for that matter) always started around 2-3pm and typically consisted of the following:
- Fruit salad to start
- Vegetable salad (with her simple, yet incredible, homemade Italian dressing)
- An assortment of cooked vegetables like potatoes, carrots, turnip, green beans, baby onions, peas, and etc.
- Pepperidge Farm garlic bread and/or rolls with butter
- Easter ham
- Custard, pudding, Jell-O, Cool Whip, birthday cake (holidays were also an excuse to celebrate family birthdays), sugar cookies, and ice cream for dessert
After everyone had sufficiently stuffed themselves, one of my aunts or uncles would be assigned the task of hiding the eggs for the Easter egg hunt. Once they had been tucked away in every last corner of Grammy’s meticulously manicured backyard, the kids would rush outside with our baskets and gather as many as we could, reconvening back inside afterwards to count our loot: colored eggs typically contained candy or coins, and the coveted golden egg (which was always in the trickiest hiding spot) contained a few dollar bills—very exciting for a little kid.
And even though my cousins and I had all presumably received an Easter basket from the Easter Bunny that morning, Grammy liked to make them for us too, filled with Gowell’s jelly beans (a local Brockton favorite) and little presents she’d ordered from Avon or shopped for at the Big Value. She’d always send me a card a few weeks in advance too, with $20 or $30 in it and instructions to “Buy yourself something nice to wear for Easter”, which, of course, I was always happy to do.
Grammy Helen left this earth at the age of 94, and although I’m perfectly at peace with her passing because we all knew it was her time, it doesn’t make me miss her any less when the holidays roll around. While I'm starting to carve out my own traditions for Thanksgiving and Christmas, for Easter, one of those “in between” holidays that you don’t necessarily celebrate unless you’re in the “Christ Is Risen” camp (which I’m not) or if you have little ones of your own (which I don’t), it can feel a little lonely, sometimes even more melancholy than celebratory.
So, until I come up with a set of traditions of my own, I’ll always think of my Grammy Helen on Easter—of the warmth of her home, of her enduring thoughtfulness and generosity, and overall, of the beautiful example of the importance of family that she set for me. I am forever grateful to have had her in my life for as long as I did.