there's no parking on our street this morning, so packed is the road with easter sunday churchgoers.
i kind of understand the impulse, even though i've sworn off christianity for the sake of my mental wellbeing and dignity. of all church services of the year, easter sunday was the best, even if you did have to get up early. then again, everyone with kids was up early anyway. i used to lie in bed on easter morning preparing myself for the possibility that the easter bunny might not have come after all, just to intensify that thrill of lilac raffia and big easter rabbits that i fervently hoped were solid.
church felt as right as it ever did at the sunrise service. celebrating while the sun rose made the event thrillingly pagan -- not that we used that language -- and people tended to be in a good mood. even sour mrs donelon (RIP, killed in a horrific car accident just last fall) said hello to the teenagers. the campbells, tanned and lined, would be back from wintering in arizona, talking flamboyantly and, we felt, a bit pridefully about the snowbird life. roslyn hanchard, the prettiest girl at church, would have a new hat and kim mabbott, the doctor's daughter, would be wearing a whole new outfit. the doctor's entire family would come to braemar on easter sunday, looking very well dressed and just a bit uncomfortable. did they know, then, that jim would end his career in disgrace? for the most part we put the knives away on easter sunday, welcoming even the pastor's hippie daughter who had a child out of wedlock (we did use that phrase, "out of wedlock") and, worse, was whispered to be "a vegetarian!" in a good year the weather would be warm enough that we'd be able to wear white sandals instead of brown boots, our reinforced-toe nylons poking through.
easter music was always the best. not even braemar baptist's lugubrious congregation could turn "and can it be / that i should gain" into a dirge (though i've just done a quick internet search to remind myself of the lyrics, and i see that some can). in the early 1980s my friend sylvia and i would play the descant on our flutes, standing as close as possible to the musically talented carmichael family who would sing soprano, alto, tenor and bass. dimpled betty-mae macdonald, whose daughter wore enviable black-and-white saddle shoes that, she told us confidently, were Orthopedic, was another singer, with a sweet pure voice that ascended to the heavens.
after the service there would be food -- refreshments, they were called. the plain ladies, the widows and those who couldn't sing would spend the service in the church kitchen plating dainties and slices contributed by the hospitality committee, so that when we all trooped back to the church gym after the service we could hold the sugar crash at bay for another few hours.
the very best part about easter sunday? you were set free by 10:00 am.