I’ve struggled with how much I want to invest in Easter this year. Easter is not one of my favorite holidays, not for any particular reason. I think I don’t like that it’s constantly changing days from year to year, sometimes ending up in a totally different season. You never know if egg hunts will be done in shorts and sandals or boots and coats. Oh, and it’s a Christian holiday, and while my family are all still Christians, I am not, so there’s that.
Last year, though, I made my peace with the holiday, decided that it could be merely be a day that celebrates the end of winter, the beginning of spring, which is where its origins seem to lie anyhow, with our celebration of baby chicks and bunnies and eggs. Plus, now I have a daughter, and I didn’t want to deprive her of the non-Jesus holiday traditions like coloring and hunting for eggs: activities that are fun for children.
So even though we don’t celebrate the resurrection of Christ in this house, I did grab a couple bags of candy, some egg dye, and a stuffed bunny on my last grocery trip.
Amelia, lately, has gotten rather obsessed with getting mail. Every time we check the mailbox, she asks if there’s anything for her. Since this week leads up to a holiday that all our family still celebrates, and since no one is allowed to see each other physically (#coronavirus), when Amelia asks if that package is for her, the answer has been pretty steadily “yes.”
Today a big box from her grandparents arrived. We FaceTimed them as she opened it. The box was filled with puzzles, bubbles, stuffies, and little plastic eggs that rattled when they were shaken. Amelia went to open an egg, and her dad stopped her. “No, we’ll do an Easter egg hunt this weekend so you can find them.”
I thought back to last year, when Amelia had an egg hunt partner in her cousin Bijou, who is a year younger than her. And then I made the grandparents hunt for eggs as well. There was a delicious spread of food to which everyone contributed and me and my sister-in-law sporting bunny ears most of the day and the general cacophony of family celebrating their love for each other together, celebrating each other’s company together.
My last semester of my Master’s program, Chris and I opted out of Easter. I was working diligently on my thesis and the semester was quickly coming to a close. When the day came, and I scrolled through social media, I saw pictures of not only my family gathering without me but everyone else’s families gathering together, and I felt a tinge of regret that we hadn’t participated.
Now it feels strange and a little sad to know that no one can be with their families on this major holiday. That the coronavirus has cancelled Easter, or Easter gatherings anyhow, because it’s not safe to be around family. It seems to be a contradiction, when, for some people, family is where they feel the most safe.
Amelia and my colds turned into infections, so we’ve both been on antibiotics for the past ten days, finishing up last night. I woke up this morning at 5am with the irrepressible urge to cough. I worry that the antibiotics maybe hadn’t done their job.
The last time Amelia had double ear infections (only two months ago), the first dose of antibiotics didn’t knock it out, and she was prescribed medicine that wasn’t nearly as delicious as amoxicillin, which she fought us on every night. I really didn’t want that to happen again.
Someone in our family has been sick since Thanksgiving. That’s five months of sickness in this house. When I told my cousin that, she suggested that I rid our house of negative energy.
As I’ve stated, I’m not religious. I’m also not superstitious. And I would probably say I’m not even all that spiritual.
What I am is desperate.
So this morning, I got out some sage and told Amelia we were going to cleanse the house. We opened all the windows. I struck a match. The dried yellow sage turned black and red and glowed and smoked. I waved it in front of the wall.
“Amelia do it?” she asked.
“Sure, Bubs,” I answered, and handed the sage over to her. The smoke swirled around her little body, weaved itself through her curly hair. She swatted playfully at it with her hand.
I led her around the house to each of the rooms, instructing her to cover as much area as her tiny attention span allowed before moving onto the next room.
When we got to the front door, I asked her for the sage, and I waved it around her body. Then I handed it back to her and asked her to cleanse me. I twirled around in a circle as she held the sage out toward me. Then we opened the door and let the negative energy exit.
I snubbed out the embers on the end of the sage.
“Do it again?” Amelia asked immediately.
“No, Bubs, I think we’re cleansed enough for now.”
“Cleanse again? Cleanse again, please?” she begged.
I shrugged my shoulders and chuckled. Can’t hurt, right? “Okay, Bubs.”
“I’m so excited we’re going to do it again!” she said, jumping.
I don’t know if the sage cleared out the negative energy or if I just enjoyed Amelia’s enthusiasm for this new ritual. Maybe a little of both? But a contentedness fell over the house immediately.
Feels a little strange to perform a pagan ritual during a Christian holiday weekend, especially when I’m neither pagan nor Christian. I definitely had no intention to appropriate anyone’s religious practices. I was just looking for a little extra help on what seemed to be “a lot of bad juju,” as my cousin said.
Without religion, there is not much use for ritual in one’s daily life. I will admit that what I miss the most about the church are the rituals, the traditions, the sacredness. Plastic eggs and stuffed bunnies, though tradition, don’t really feel all that sacred. But burning sage and cleansing my home with my daughter brought sacredness back into the weekend.
We did Amelia’s Easter egg hunt yesterday because it was supposed to rain today. Then this morning, the clouds cleared and the temps rose above 50, so when Amelia asked (incessantly) for another egg hunt, I put on some cartoons for her while I filled a few more eggs and hid them in the landscaping.
As she skirted around the house, crouching for eggs and putting them in her basket, the rest of the neighborhood was silent. I expected other families to be out doing what we were doing. Usually Easter morning would be filled with children’s giggles wafting through the air. I at least expected to see families on porches in their Easter attire, taking family portraits. But doors were closed. Yards were empty. I guess no one had anything to dress up for today.
I’m sure people are still celebrating. Hams are cooking in the ovens. Eggs are being dyed all sorts of bright colors. Chocolates are being unwrapped and consumed in unhealthy amounts. Maybe egg hunts are going on and I’m just not seeing them.
The day seems strangely quiet, though. Holidays tend to be boisterous. But with the windows open in the house, all I hear are a few distant cars and the wind blowing through the trees.