My favorite memory of Easter is my grandparents old house. It was a three story apartment that they owned on the south side of Brockton. Brockton is a city approximately 25 miles south of Boston. She lived on Track Street, a small street that housed no more than 8 other houses and apartments. It was a poor section of Brockton. It wasn’t uncommon for her neighbors to own cars that fell apart and have old washing machines on their lawn. I would describe the neighborhood as a slight step above white trash. But to me, it was beautiful. It was a great childhood.
When I was a youth, all our holidays took place at Grandma and Grandpas apartment. And Easter was one of the major holidays. Along with Thanksgiving and Christmas, it was one of the big holidays that you had to dress up for and look nice. All the family at some point during the day, would make their way to Grandma Jackies house. Grandma was a cook. A magnificent cook to be honest. And as a side job, she was a baker. Candy and cakes were her specialty. So the Easter basket was always filled with homemade chocolate lollipops and homemade peanut butter filled eggs. The peanut butter was moist and a great contrast to the hard milk chocolate, which settled around it when it was frozen overnight. Grandma would make a huge meal. On Easter Sundays, it was usually ham, lasagna, stuffed shells and eggplant Parmesan. And each tasted as good as the next. I never appreciated how much she spent on food or how long she must’ve spent slaving over the stove. All I knew is when I showed up, the food was ready.
There was an unwritten rule in my Grandparents house. ‘No kids in the kitchen.’ You were allowed to come in and get some food. But you were never allowed to hang out in the kitchen with the adults. The moment you stayed a minute too long, Grandma would yell “Get in the living room!” And you didn’t question or back talk grandma. As sweet as she was, you knew she ruled the house with an iron fist. All the adults laughed and talked loudly in the kitchen. You could hear them from the living room. I remember vividly wanting nothing more to know what they were talking about. Wanting nothing more than to be in on the joke. To me, they were having a party out there. But the living room wasn’t a bad place to have to be either. Easter is a funny holiday. The sun shines through and makes you believe its warm enough to stay outside. Typically though, you could stay outside for 15 minutes before your cheeks got red and your earlobes damn near fell off. As a result, most Easters were spent indoors.
Grandma’s living room smelled like her dog Snuggles. And his white hair was all over the brown carpet. However, it wasn’t aggravating. There was something comforting about the smell of the house. It gave you sense of security. The living room wasn’t big and got crowded easily. Between me and my 4 siblings, my 3 cousins and our 2 friends that lived on the third floor, the living room was very stuffy. Luckily, Grandma had cable. A luxury during that time. Even though my older brother Jarrod would never let me watch what I wanted, at least something interesting was always on. He usually found a monster truck show, dirt bike race or even the good ole Duke Of Hazard would be on. Also, my grandparents owned a VCR. Again, a luxury in its day. They had a lot of videotapes, but mostly westerns and Sweatin’ To The Oldies with Richard Simmons. They did however own one kids movie, Adventures In Babysitting. I remember sitting in that living room for several Easters in a row watching Adventures In Babysitting.
Later in the day, after dinner was served, Grandpa Charlie would come to the living room and take over the TV. He always found sports somewhere on television. One thing all us kids could agree on is, we didn’t want to watch college sports. So that’s when I was ready for Easter to be over. My friends would go back up to the 3rd floor, and even my cousins would go home. My family always seemed to be the last to leave. And as an adult now, I can appreciate that.
It’s been 16 or 17 years since I had an Easter like that. Life goes on and things change. Your cousins get older and they move on. Your friends move out and find new friends. And your Grandparents get older. It’s the natural cycle of life. In the last 7 years, we lost a lot of family members who made those Easters special. My Grandfather Charlie, the rough and tumble sports fan, lost his life to cancer in February 2004. And 2 weeks later, my older brother Jarrod was killed by a drunk driver. Not too long after that, in September 2005, the matriarch of the family, Grandma Jackie, succumbed to heart failure. And just a few weeks ago, In February 2011, we lost my other older brother Shawn. I’d like to think a little piece of their tradition lives on, even if it will never be the same for us. And though its not the same for us, there is hope that we’re building great lasting memories for the sons and daughters, the nieces and nephews, who are children now. I’ll always love those Easter Sundays. And I always think of my lovely Grandmother when I tell one of the kids “Get in the living room!”