Easter

Can We Save Our Grandchildren?

My grandgirls (age 10 and 7) were here for Easter week.  Great fun and many laughs. And some moments of shaking my head and wondering if these gorgeous, brilliant, athletic, sensitive and caring girls (I did mention they were MY granddaughters right?) were growing up in a wildly paced technological world I would never understand.  A world that could warp their values and twist their minds in some way leaving them totally materialistic, often without a moral core, confused, over stimulated and indifferent to everyone but themselves.  Hmm, do you ever think these crazy thoughts about the current youngest generation?  Sure you do.  Maybe it’s the Tang and Tab we drank, the Tareyton’s we smoked, the Beatles and Stones we listened to or the free love and/or non-medicinal marijuana we shared that has made us wary of today’s mysterious culture.

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I got up one morning last week and both girls were intently playing with their Kindle Fire tablets. They were so quiet I was partly thrilled (I remember being quiet as a child – am I just delusional or were we actually half as noisy?) and partly worried as I realized I had no, yes, no control over what they were watching.  Or, what they were thinking or evolving into based on what they were watching.  After Reagan noticed me she was anxious to show me a “show” on YouTube she really likes – Miranda Sings, a sort of Pee Wee Herman for the current 4th grade set.  It was rather odd to say the least – in a sort of young tween age gross, disgusting sense.  This quick look into today’s girls’ world started my serious reflection on how I could counter some of these new cultural influences.

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Miranda Sings – YouTube character

Here are my conclusions:

  • I am right that I have little idea what is going on in my granddaughters world in terms of fashion, TV, media, nature of the culture and most things they interact with and observe daily
  • This is not the end of the world
  • The reality is, the people our children and grandchildren become are only partially impacted by the culture they experience. They are MORE, MUCH MORE, influenced by the homes, parents, and family (including us) that surround them and interact with them as they grow up
  • We remember mainly standard things our parents said frequently – which included these and their variations:
    • Why are you heating the outdoors? Close the door
    • We walked x miles to school/church etc. with bad shoes/light shoes/no boots
    • If that is what the teacher/the Rabbi/Father John/Reverend Bob or the librarian said, then that is what you are going to do!
    • Don’t have such a swelled head
    • And their favorite as we grew to be teens and young women: why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?!?
  • Likely our grandchildren will remember the new equivalent of those messages said by our children to them, including these and their variations:
    • Believe in yourself
    • You are wonderful and deserve the best
    • Stop doing that or eating that – it will result in something awful that the government should ban
    • We don’t do that in this house
    • Time out/inside voice/STOP
  • Our grandchildren will likely NOT remember much of anything we say – BUT, and here is the BIG INSIGHT for this fabulous grandmother:
    • They will observe and mimic the things we say that are funny and unique. I expect Reagan and Morgan to talk with a banana in their ear while having breakfast with their children or grandchildren just like I did. As well as call every insect and animal Mr. or Miss whatever – Mr. Ant, Miss Bear, Mr. Chip, Miss Fish – they already do
    • They will observe and worry or not about someday getting older based on how we are handling it right now – they are already telling our daughter they want her to be an “active” grandma like me
    • They will understand love, money, success, generosity, kindness, intellectual curiosity and honesty based on what we DO with/to and around our children and them

Since this analysis, I am not nearly as worried about saving my grandchildren from the culture anymore.  I work extremely hard on modeling values I want them to incorporate in themselves.  I do not lecture or advise.  I have few if any opinions and respect the boundaries around them and their parents who they see I love dearly.

“Shit”, I said after doing something not quite right in the kitchen.  Morgan and Reagan reminded me of two things.  First, I said a bad word (damn they listen don’t they?) and “it’s OK grandma, we love your meatballs.” Where did they get that from?

Don’t worry about YouTube. They’ll be fine.

Patty

Easter in the 50’s: Candy, New Clothes, Church and Grandma’s House

Growing up in the 50’s, Easter was my third favorite holiday after Christmas and Halloween. I especially liked the fact that it came around in springtime, which meant that Cincinnati’s long, cold winter months were really over.

I also liked that everyone in the family got new clothes so that we could dress up for Easter Sunday church services before visiting my two grandmas’ houses.

But the most exciting thing was having an Easter basket full of chocolate bunnies, coconut cream eggs, dyed Easter eggs and jelly beans show up on the dining room table on Easter morning. Baskets were left by the Easter Bunny, we were told, although we weren’t quite sure who that was or why he brought us goodies. And, do rabbits lay eggs, we wondered? We weren’t stupid, though, and happily went along with the bunny stories.

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The days leading up to Easter Sunday were filled with anticipation for me, my sister Chris and my little brother Tom. First, there was Lent which began on Ash Wednesday and lasted until Holy Saturday. As good Catholic children, we had to give something up for those 40 days in order to repent for our sins. Since the three of us were all under 10 years old, we didn’t have much to repent for or much to give up, either.

Candy or ice cream or cookies were the obvious choices. I usually chose candy and then salivated for 40 days every time I saw a friend eating a candy bar. Such torture! But as far as I can remember, I stuck it out and didn’t eat candy until the basket showed up on Easter Sunday morning.

I remember the strong smell of vinegar a couple of days before Easter when we would open up our egg decorating kit, drop purple, red, green, blue, orange and yellow tablets into coffee cups of vinegar and then dip our eggs into the cups with a spoon because the metal dipper that came with the kit never worked.  My mother would try to minimize fighting by having us take turns with the colors.

Sometimes we would draw on the eggs with a “magic” wax crayon before we dipped them. I’m sure that was when mom realized that that none of us had any artistic promise.

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Or, we would wait until the eggs were dry and then select a design sticker from the kit and hold it in place with a towel. That was supposed to imprint the image on the egg. The trick was holding it steady enough and long enough that it wouldn’t blur.  When you are under 10, you don’t have much patience so that didn’t work very well either.

I remember two popular songs about Easter in the 50’s. They were all over the airwaves (yes, we listened to radio in our homes back then).  One was Easter Parade, written in the early 30’s, but made especially popular when Judy Garland and Fred Astaire performed it in the 1948 Easter Parade movie,

The other was Here Comes Peter Cottontail, recorded by Gene Autry in 1950. We knew every word.

About my new clothes: I don’t remember going to a store to buy a new dress for Easter until I was in my teens, so I think my mom went to the store on her own or had our dresses made by a neighbor. I don’t remember being picky, but when I look at this photo, I think I should have been.  Check out the puffy sleeves and the weird “Easter bonnet”.

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Cathy, Easter, circa 1958

Here’s another photo of me and my sister. I’m on the right. No, we are NOT twins. She is actually a year older. But obviously, my mom found it easier to buy us the same clothes. And, unfortunately, this wasn’t the only year she dressed us alike.

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Christine and Cathy, Easter, circa 1956

Did you notice the gloves? They were a big thing in the 50’s.  And the cute little bobby socks were, too. I have no idea where that center part in my hair came from, but I think in this case an Easter bonnet would have been more attractive.

At church, everyone was in celebration mode. Not only had Jesus risen from the dead, but weren’t we all looking great?  Shades of pink, yellow, blue and green were everywhere. New dresses, hats, shoes, and purses were overtly checked out, sometimes with envy and sometimes with snickers.

After church, our family would drive to one of my grandma and grandpa’s houses, where we were met with oohing and aahing, posed for Kodak pictures, and ate lots of food and candy. Next, we’d drive to my other grandma and grandpa’s house where there was more oohing and aahing, more snapshots, more food and more candy.

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Mom and us kids, Dad always took the pictures

And then, Easter was over. In a few days, all of the candy was gone and the eggs were too old to eat.

After Easter, there were no more imminent kid-friendly holidays.

The only thing we could do was to look forward to summer vacation, think about what we would wear on Halloween, and glance over our shoulders to see if Santa was watching.

Cathy Green

Easter or Passover – Say Hallelujah!

It’s Easter time and I have been feeling wistful these last weeks for the Easter season of my youth. March 29th was Palm Sunday this year – the Sunday prior to Easter. The celebration of Palm Sunday through Easter Sunday is the holiest week of the year for Christians. The real preparation for Easter begins even earlier with Lent, the season kicked off (in a secular way) by Mardi Gras.

During Lent we gave up things like chocolate or picked new things to focus on – like “not being disobedient to our parents”. What we ever did that was disobedient still eludes me. I think most Catholics made up sins for confession when we were under 10. We varied our limited schedules to include more visits to Church for silent reflection or to attend extra services. During holy week there were major services including Holy Thursday which commemorates the Last Supper, Good Friday with its focus on the crucifixion and the saying/going through the Stations of the Cross, which aided in thinking about what Christ went through.

Being a 1950s/60s Catholic, these traditions were not generally considered optional. And it seemed everyone went to Church, participated in these services – while my and my parents’ Jewish friends went to Temple and/or the Synagogue for Passover which we knew less about – except of course that Jesus was Jewish. Everyone seemed to be doing something important and religious. And doing it in the exact same way every year.

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Easter finery: Patty (left) and sister Wendy circa 1954. Cathy, far right, circa 1959

 

There was the ritual of coloring Easter eggs and eating chocolate rabbits once it was officially Easter. My sister Wendy and I also liked helping my mother make “Easter bread” – a delicious type of egg-infused loaf we only consumed during a few weeks prior to and after Easter Sunday. We enjoyed preparing once a year treats of “Italian cheesecake” – think ricotta cheese versus cream cheese; and pizza rustica – a sort of torta of cold cuts and cheeses in a tasty crust. Stir in new bonnets and dresses for Church and “going as a family to Church” and you have the experience.

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Easter Sunday was like Church every week — except more crowded since back then 100% of Catholics went to Church on Christmas and Easter while only what seemed like 95% went every week – with loud and strong singing and frequent ‘Hallelujahs’ and lilies with purple foil bases everywhere you looked.

It’s 2015. I realize that my wonderful memories have been utterly replaced with what? Now, Easter means only the need to attend Church if I want to (which I do), hearing from a select few friends who are deeply religious (which is a very short list) or some family members who are touched to be remembered (like my 100 year old uncle or my 95 year old aunt). Nothing else is expected – or required.

Upon reflection, I got what I wanted — the choice of what faith and what role that faith plays in my life. Easter is a day I choose to celebrate privately. I lost all the fattening parts of the holiday which tempted me: cheesecake, torta, and the chocolate bunnies as well as the endless list of should-do’s around the holiday. It is definitely harder to form and keep my own faith including holy days for myself. But that is the freedom I believe is important and what I thought (and still think) is what we as a generation stood for: personal responsibility and wonderful creative license to believe and worship as we please – what is truly fabulous.

Oh and Blessed Passover, and Happy Easter to those of you who choose to celebrate – Sing Hallelujah!

Patty Gill Webber

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