Easter During a Pandemic: Well, That was Different

Quinlan was in my bathroom Sunday morning as we were getting ready to go see my mom. It was Easter. We’d giggled over the baskets and laughed through the backyard egg hunt and baked and eaten the Resurrection Rolls, but we’d also watched a lot of LEGO Star Wars, and every single one of us fell asleep during a televised Easter Mass. Normally at that time David and I are running around doing last-minute clean-up, cooking, decorating, because we always host Easter dinner for the family at our house in the afternoon. We were so not busy this particular morning. I wasn’t hollering at anybody to vacuum the stairs or comb the hair or help me set out the silverware. There were no spring flowers on the table, or lilies rising from pastel foil to fill the house with their sneeze-inducing scent. David went for a run. It was weird.

I had taken a curling iron to my hair for the first time in a month and a half–these days the hair is air-dried and forgotten about, a process I am fully on board with–and Quinlan was watching me. “Do you remember that time I burnt your forehead?” I asked. I said it with a grimace, because the “time” I was talking about was the morning of Quinn’s First Holy Communion, right before she’d slipped on her pretty dress and veil. She’d asked me to curl her hair, and just as I finished, I accidentally touched the hot iron to her forehead, searing off a nickel-sized section of skin so cleanly and painlessly it was like I’d branded her. “Yep,” she replied, on this other day of firsts, then turned to walk out of the bathroom. “That was an experience.”

We got to my mom’s house around three p.m., carrying bags filled with dishes of prepared ham, mashed sweet potatoes, roasted carrots and green beans almondine. The day before I’d made a springtime raspberry and ricotta cake, and a flourless chocolate cake that I burned so badly I ended up sawing off the smoking parts and layered what was left into a pudding trifle that looked as appetizing as it sounds. We had a bottle of sparkling wine with us, chocolates for Mom, and Easter lilies for her and her caregiver. We were trying.

We were dressed up this Easter Sunday. I wore mascara (another novelty around here these days. I’ve discovered that my eyelashes are graying right along with my hair, and it’s as fascinating as it is disconcerting) and a bright green dress that fit a touch more snugly now that my diet is mostly wine and Chips Ahoy. The girls were wearing florals and hearts, and Cian had just finished yelling about having to tuck in his shirt (“I don’t LIKE being FANCY!”) but was doing it anyway. David had on a lavender button-front and dress pants. We wanted to be bright and festive, both for my mom and for the kids. We were trying.

Mom had forgotten it was Easter Sunday until we reminded her, but was excited to see the family. It never stops being alarming to walk into the house and see her draped along her recliner like a rag doll. She was watching Fox News, so we spent the afternoon of this sacred day hearing horror stories about the coronavirus. The kids changed clothes, went outside, played a pick-up game of soccer with the caregiver, whom they adore. Mom talked with Mary and Tim, FaceTimed David’s mom, FaceTimed Paul and Sarah. David and I did most of the talking. We had dinner in the living room, the four grown-ups sitting on couches, the kids on a bedsheet on the floor like a picnic. Mom ate a little bit of ham but a lot of that trifle. I poured her wine she didn’t touch and gave her chocolates she did. We were trying.

We were able to hang out for a long time, this Sunday. On the way home that night, the kids asked me if I had a good day, and I said yes, of course.

But it wasn’t a good day. Easter is usually one of my favorite days of the year. It’s special without pressure, joyful without restraints, a validation for the hard preparation of the forty days–the year–preceding it. It’s a reminder that pain is always rewarded with redemption. Yesterday, in the midst of a pandemic and hospice care and my fading mom, who just two years ago had driven over in her cute black SUV for Mass, with the ham and her deviled eggs and the sparkling wine for Easter dinner (I forgot the eggs this year), we couldn’t find the redemption.

I know it’s there. I know we’re simply still waiting. But, man: Sunday was a day we got through rather than celebrated. If you’re shaking off the dust today, too, I get it. Life has slowed down, gotten difficult, gotten surreal. Whatever life you were living before this has become your cage, for better or for worse, and some of us aren’t quite sure what to do with that.

Easter’s come and gone, but we’re still the women sitting outside the dark tomb, waiting.

There were no lilies in our house this year. As Quinlan would say: that was an experience.

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