Why Easter?

good friday
When we were walking to school at the beginning of the week, Little O looked up at me and said, “Why is Easter your favorite, mom? Shouldn’t it be, like, your birthday is your favorite – for you, I mean?”

I answered with geeky enthusiasm, “Because…JESUS!”  And he rolled his eyes in the way that a child rolls his eyes at an embarrassing mom and continued his trudge towards school.

He’s not the first one to ask me.  Even if the short answer is true, I could expand a little.

Grace is one of my favorite ideas, favorite thoughts, favorite words – it sounds even better than forgiveness.  It’s a guiding light for me in daily encounters and big huge decisions. How could I give grace? receive grace? Easter is the ultimate story of grace; God suffering for us so that we may never know separation from him.  I grew up with parents who knew grace and gave grace.  No one listened to a sermon of my father’s without hearing they were loved. By Jesus.  Forgiven. By Jesus.  All your sins are washed away….so when I get a day to celebrate GRACE ETERNAL, I’m gonna take it!

To be fair, I also had an (un)healthy dose of guilt in my childhood.  I was keenly aware of my sinful nature;  how I messed up and could try harder.  However, I also  knew in my little childhood heart that I was saved, loved, accepted, and forgiven. I always wanted to do better -for my mom, for my dad, for God.  In a way that is oftentimes harder to fathom as an adult (death is closer after all), I also knew that I would live forever.  As a young girl, I knew in my bones I’d have eternity with the Lord. More importantly, I thought that was AMAZING. Sometimes I drew doodles of heaven… and they looked a little bit like Wet ‘N Wild.  Water Slides forever!

I was also a dramatic, sensitive little soul… and the ritual of Lent and Holy Week, well, this little actress ate it up with a spoon.  Giving something up for 40 whole days. Taking Communion on Thursday.  Weeping in the Dark on Friday as the altar is cleared and the book slams shut.  Every year I got so mad again – why did they have to do that to my Jesus?

But EASTER?  Oh, Easter.  Every Easter our church was FULL.  Even as we were growing – Easter was one that everyone showed up for – they brought their families, their neighbors.  If they came once a year, they came on Easter.  My Father, who was always a good preacher, took it up five or ten notches on Easter -because he knew this was his ONE Sunday with most of these people… it better be good.

“He is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia!”

And the music… oh, the music.  The music was so joyous, so happy!  After a Friday night of moan/singing that old spiritual, ‘Were you There’ – we get to wake up and sing “ALLELUIA! HE IS RISEN!” On Sunday morning? Count me in.  Sign me up.  Roll away the Stone!  After 40 days of thinking and praying and being somber, it is time for a festival!

Easter is shiny and new. Lilies covered the altar.  Sometimes there were musicians, a brass ensemble, to remind us ‘Christ the Lord is Risen Today’.  I always had a new Spring dress.  Some years I got up in the dark to join Dad for the Sunrise service…. The sky is always pretty at sunrise, but on Easter morning in Florida… it is truly celestial.  Easter was all dressed up in the best of ways- flowers, brass instruments, fresh floral fabric and Sunshine.

The rest of the day was colored glad.  My Dad would be in a fantastic mood – the culmination of a week of church.  His good cheer was contagious and we would have a big dinner and just be together as a family.  

I have wonderful Easter memories.  

Sometimes we need a holiday that is religious.  I know that social media and capitalism are pushing us to celebrate and spend on many lesser days through the year. National Donut Day, anyone?  Easter, to me, still feels spiritual. I take my spirituality quite seriously even if I’m not always the most reverent. I might be the most difficult person to sit next to at church. I’ve been to so many services in my lifetime – sometimes I just have to pull your hair or write on your bulletin or whisper a ridiculous story just to entertain myself. I might do a responsive reading in an accent or change the lyrics to your favorite song. Even my irreverence is dwarfed by the spirituality of Easter.  I understand celebrating the onset of Spring (moreso now that I live in the Midwest), but if you’re not celebrating resurrection -why call it Easter?  Chicks and Bunnies and Chocolate are cute… but, Alleluia! That’s trans-formative.

Why Easter? It is more than lilies, than music, than ritual and my nostalgia for childhood.  It’s the celebration of second, third, and fourth Chances. Whatever happened is done.  You are loved just as you are.  It is rebirth. It is renewal. It is redemption.  It is a reminder that today is but a bump on a road that winds forever. It is everything.

More

It is time once again for the little Bird to spread her wings.

Her need to share, to make, to give  is growing stronger and stronger

Maybe it won’t be as a little bird, maybe she is done staring into the mirror and calling it a ‘friend’.

Maybe she can fall asleep before you throw that blanket over her cage.

Maybe.

There are Days.

There are Days the seasons turn in an instant.  Days you oversleep and you can’t seem to throw off the covers.  When you run toward school, towards appointments, with a haphazard scarf and just one open eye…

These are the Days of Change.

The Days you notice you’re older.  you are colder. your breath takes longer.

and you sit.

and you wait.

and you sit again.

You don’t cry.  It isn’t time for that.

Come to the Art Show

The Parakeet loves all things creative.  Bring on the music, the literature, the dance, the theater.  Show her the paintings, the sculptures, and the architecture. She’s happy to encourage all cooking, designing and building things.  Use those creative muscles.

When Little O wanted to check out a book from the library on how to draw Super Heros, she wasn’t phased.  They spent many hours of the past week or so copying the shapes in the book and turning them into Heroes.  The Heroes earned names like Green Bean, Growth Spurt, and Super Chef!  Little O got out his never-too-far-away tape dispenser and began hanging them all over the house.  He relied on mom for a lot of the shapes but eventually branched out on his own. 
After visiting the Art Institute, he decided to add a self-portrait.  He only somewhat self-consciously told his mother, “It might not look just like me because it’s from when I was a baby”. 
He then became very fixated on the idea of having an Art Show.  It would be on Easter Day.  The families who were coming for Easter dinner would stay and watch his Art Show.  He wrote a speech to tell them about how to look at his show.  It started with, “Stop. Freeze. Unfreeze.  I have some words to tell you….”
He brought paper and crayons to church all weekend to keep adding to his exhibition.  His understanding parents allowed these drawings to cover the kitchen stairs and upstairs bedrooms. 
The show went off without a hitch, don’t worry.  He wouldn’t answer questions about his work, but maybe that just makes him a typical artist.
The talk that warmed the Parakeet’s heart the most though was to hear Little O talk of his work.  On Saturday as he prepared he told her, “Mom, making art shows is my JOB.  I will always make shows. I won’t forget when I’m a grown-up.  I’ll fly ”  (and then he held his arms out to show flying) “I’ll fly all over and I’ll bring my crayons and my paper and I’ll make shows inside places and outside places and everywhere they want to see art.  I’ll make shows and shows and shows.”
Oh. Wow.  Please, Little O, DON’T forget.  

Land of Imagination

The Parakeet is so lucky.  She watches Little O see things for the first time, struggle, give up, try again, give up, imagine, create, build and play.
In just the past two days, she’s watched him tape construction paper to a hat and create a contraption that would drop snacks into his hand when he demanded them.  He called her into his room to watch the “show” he would perform in the dark, twisting jumping and rolling on his bed.  He stepped into a cardboard box and became a robot that refused to walk up stairs. 
He also has said a few things that made her cringe.  She hears the worst of herself hurled back in a yell or scream with clenched fists.  She is frustrated with him, but also sad because she knows he learned those behaviors from his parents. 
Today, though, she heard the good.
He played alone with a few matchbox cars while she worked at the computer, but she could hear him speaking for both of his toys in the background.
“Oh, I just cant make it up this track”
“Yes you can”
“No I cant. Nevermind. I’m not going to do it”
” We don’t talk like that here.  We say ‘I can'”
“What?”
“You say ‘I can get up that hill’ and then you do it”
“Oh. OK.”
Then, that little car in his little story drove up the track.
The Parakeet felt warm in her guts.  She knew they had this conversation many times and was so happy to see him translating it to his toys unaware she was listening.

In truth, he gave her strength. When a scary but exciting request came her way today – she decided, “I can do it”. And she will. 

Each Snowflake

The past four years of the bird’s life have been full of learning experiences.  Maybe that is part of being in your thirties.  It might just be life, no matter your age.  But the bird hasn’t been so in tune with it until now, until these years.  She is keenly aware that time passes whether or not you respect it.  That is motherhood, probably.

Watching your child grow forces you to acknowledge those four seasons going by over and over again.  The tiny lines appearing on your forehead and neck are a subtle reminder that you wont actually be ‘forever young’.

God chooses interesting moments to express his power.  The bird is not in control of all things.  The timing in this Universe isn’t up to any individual.  If the Parakeet could have programmed her life at this point – it might look a little different and a lot the same.  She loves her family.  She loves their urban life.  She loves their community of friends.  She loves working for herself and the varied routines of each day.  She would have had another child.  She’d be performing more. Maybe she’d take a few more fabulous vacations and decorate her house in a more stylish manner.  Some things people can change. Others they can’t. Or they shouldn’t.

Like her son, though, the Parakeet is growing up.  She is speaking her mind more each year, each month even.  She is asking for what she needs and saying no to things that don’t feed her.  She walked away from an obligation today and it felt great.  She is writing.  She is singing.  She is making plans.  She is appreciating small moments.  She’ll walk to school and pick up Little O today.  This way he can walk back in the fresh-fallen snow he’s been waiting for so long.  So long in his four-year-old world.  She’ll bring him snow pants and he’ll make a snow angel.  Her Florida-raised self will attempt to help him with a snowman.  They will be cold.  They will shiver.  They will laugh.  She will take pictures.  She will notice the moments.

Snow-flakes are important.  They mark the time as much as any clock. Maybe more so.  Lord, let the days be productive, but let no one miss the moments.

It’s COLD

Living in Chicago is supposed to make you tougher.  The Hot Dogs and Pizza will clog your arteries.  The traffic will raise your blood pressure.  The politics will harden even the most tender of heart and the winter. . . the gray skies and dropping temps that linger well into Spring will leave most all of the city’s inhabitants with a Vitamin D Deficiency if not full blown seasonal affect disorder.
Until this year.  This winter has been mild.  The days with snow fall could be counted on one hand and there was hardly anything that ‘stuck’.   The Parakeet has scraped ice off the windshield once this season – and even that was actually while on a weekend trip to Missouri.  In fact, Little O’s snow pants are hanging in his closet with the tags still on and the Keet is wondering how long will Costco grant her a refund.
Then, today happened.  The high was twelve.  Every radio station discussed how cold the weather felt and what the thermometer read.  Every other post on facebook discussed the chilly commute to work – one friend even warning all in the area not to leave the house without long underwear.
The Parakeet took advantage of MLK Jr. Day to take Little O to the Aquarium.  She dutifully put him in two pairs of pants, multiple top layers, two pairs of socks, a hat, a coat, and some of her gloves because of course he is four and his mittens are no where to be found.
They passed one neighbor who said, “man, it’s cold.”
They put their coats in lockers at the Aquarium where everyone was hugging each other and breathing into their hands and saying, “Wow, It’s cold”
The Huz came home from work today and immediately put his cold hands on the Parakeet’s face just to make her scream.  Then, he got Litttle O on the belly who reeled away in that mixture of pleasure and pain.
Why do people choose this climate? 
It might be pride – just to say you’ve been through something.  There’s an art to layering leggings without looking like a cow.  It is a skill to wrap a scarf leaving only your eyes exposed.
It might be to bond.  So, when you DO decide to get out of the house and brave the elements at least you know you’ll have something to say to the other poor schmuck waiting on the bus, “Good GOD, It’s cold!”
Winter is here, Chicago – Just in case you were wondering what you’d accomplish this year.

Pick Me! Pick Me!

The Huz had a very busy start to the year at work.  So, the Parakeet and Little O found themselves together most of the first half of this month.  They like each other – so it’s all right.

They planned a few activities,  Little O went back to school, and they also did plenty of fun things at home.

Hearing of his Dad’s overtime, O often wanted to play “work”.  He put on the Huz’ Union button from last year and set to making some scenery.  Happy to participate in theater of all kinds, the Parakeet was ready to help.  Because they had recently read Goldilocks and the Three Bears at school, Little O wanted to make that play.  (they also had a field trip to the Chicago Symphony where the story was told with music – super cool).  Little O was methodical about this work.

He wanted a table, chairs, and beds for the whole Bear Family.  They found 3 different size chairs.  They used 3 different pillows for beds, and then there was the issue of porridge.  Little O found some cardboard from their over-crowded back porch.  The Parakeet taped it together for him, but the issue of how to make the bowls was perplexing.  Little O thought and then said, “I have an idea!” He described to the parakeet how he wanted holes cut in the top of the table.  She did it.  Then, he drew three bowls of porridge with tabs at the bottom of each one on another piece of card board.  He asked her to cut those out and then he slid them into the holes on the table – not bad problem solving for a four-year old.

As he took a bath that night, the Parakeet told him, “Little O, I had so much fun playing with you today.”
“yeah, but you didn’t like when I got bossy with Parcheesi”
“No, I didn’t like that. But I loved making scenery with you. I thought it was super smart and creative how you decided to make those porridge bowls stick into the table”
“Why?”
“I wasn’t sure how we would make that and you figured it out.  I just think you’re a cool kid”
He smiled, “O”
“I’m really glad I got you for my son”
“but you picked me, Mom”
“I didn’t get to pick you, but I tell you what — God must think I’m pretty special that he decided to give me you.”
He smiled again, “And God must have thought GB was pretty special to give you to her”
The Parakeet smiled back at him.  Little O must think she is pretty cool, too.