As a little girl, Easter Sunday was all about the dress. And as a girl who felt fiercely loyal to the conventions of her gender, buying that dress was an opportunity to assert every aspect of my juvenile femininity. I wanted pastels, frills, flowers—and the dress had to pass the twirl test. The look I was going for could best be described as Southern belle, debutante, ballerina, flower girl, fairy tale princess.
It was rare that my parents became consumers due to the commercialized sentiments of a holiday. Christmas wasn’t focused on presents. We didn’t buy Halloween or Easter candy. I remember just a few seasonal shopping rituals: Every fall dad would take me to buy a new pair of sneakers (always the same brand, always the same color). I’d also get a new pair of dress shoes for school. And every spring, as Easter approached, mom would take me to the same store to buy a new dress of my choosing.
In our family, a holiday was a day that brought and kept us all home. There were no jobs, schools, or extracurricular activities—no parties or events—we had to go to. It was a day to be under the same roof—a day of rest and family togetherness.
Easter Sunday was also about the family meal. With our divergent schedules, it was a rarity that all five of us sat at the same table at the same time to eat. Family meals were a gift. I cherished those times. They reminded me of how much I liked and loved my family.
Liking my family is different from loving them. Familial love often flows from biology, chemistry, and conditioning. I love my family because they are my family. But I like them because of who they are—regardless of any relationship to me.
Usually family meals would become a vehicle for us to make each other laugh. We’d reminisce, make jokes, and tease. We’d recount stories of our individual and common life experiences. Food was the centerpiece, but love and laughter were the point. To this day, few sounds make me happier than that of my family’s laughter. Few sights swell my heart more than the broad smile of a family member.
My family has changed. I’ve lost and I’ve gained. Sadly, the five became four when my mother died. And now I have new family on my husband’s side. Easter Sundays (and the like) look different now. My husband and I rarely get to recreate the stay-at-home holidays I cherished as a child. I see my biological family less often, but that only makes the meals we do share more special.
Especially in light of how much we’ve lost and how weighed down we’ve been by sadness in the past, all I want most holidays is to share a leisurely meal with my family and hear them all laugh.