Thursday, April 21, 2011

A First/Birth Mother remembers the first Easter after surrender, only days earlier

Four generations in 1996
Easter approaches in a few days, we celebrate the resurrection and spring with the symbol of birth: eggs, eggs, eggs galore. At my house nearly twenty friends will drink mimosas and lunch on beet salad and asparagus and eggy dishes and Polish sausage that's only made at Easter time and my mother's prune cake with buttercream frosting, and I will not really have time to relive in my mind that first Easter after I relinquished my daughter. That day I called my parents in Michigan to wish them Happy Easter--or did they call?  I can't remember. I do recall the day was long and I was empty and my daughter's father was with his other family.

I wanted to die.

It was a sunny, gorgeous day in Rochester, New York that year. My apartment was clean--I'd obviously gotten a dose of the oxytocin before I went into labor and the place was spotless. I didn't go out. I stayed in and waited for the day to pass, like a bad cold.

Ever since I had my daughter and relinquished her, holidays are always a tad difficult, at least in part. But hey, nobody gets a free pass that makes everything smooth and joyous. I never actually spent a Christmas with my daughter Jane; but we did have some Easters, as it coincided with her spring vacation from school.

Easter is more memorable in this awful way because it was only five days after her birth in 1966. I grew up with a medium-sized family--two siblings, both brothers--but my mother's extended family of her four siblings and their kids, my cousins, made the extended family huge. And so after finding the hidden Easter basket of chocolate bunnies and marshmallow chicks and jelly beans, it was off to morning Mass in new finery and yes of course a hat, we all wore hats to church back then. Then back at home we had a special breakfast that had been blessed by a priest the day before: hard-boiled eggs, sausage, oranges, beets mixed with horseradish (garnish for the eggs), babka (an eggy coffeecake with raisins and candied orange) and bread my mother made the day before, and chocolate and corn flakes nests with jelly bean eggs that I had helped her make.
After breakfast, we piled into the car and drove the 70 miles to my Aunt Clara's or Aunt Josephine's house  in Jackson, Michigan, and saw relatives galore, had a big meal, gorged on more chocolate and my mother's prune cake with buttercream frosting. I napped on the drive home, content, happy, secure. One Easter when I was in college I broke up with the young man I've written about before because he didn't write often enough.

And now here I was, less than a year out of college, by myself, in a city far from family, the baby gone from me and the sun is shining and I want to die. Lord, we make our choices but I never knew how hard the bed would be that I made.

Crocus in my yard
But time does march right along, one year after another, like a parade marching down the Main Street of your life, and many years ago I realized that I had to fill my Easter with people and do for them what my mother had done for me all those years: feed them, celebrate spring. Easter dinner at somebody else's house that starts late in the afternoon or evening makes for a depressing day for me. I need company sooner rather than later, or I'm in a funk, and I need to be the one giving the party.

So later today I will start the shopping and baking and making, and pull out the party dishes and champagne glasses. I will bring out the dozens of decorated eggs I've collected from all over the world and set my table with them and chocolate bunnies. I will use my mother's tablecloths printed with the bright flowers of spring. I already have the hyacinth plant that fills the air with its sweet smell, just as I remember growing up. I have a bright new white-and-pink striped shirt to wear, it's very spring-looking.

I'll slip off to Mass at St. Andrew's around the corner in the morning on Easter, wearing a hat only if it's chilly, and Tony will steam asparagus and set up champagne glasses while I'm there. An hour after that, I will be filling the deviled eggs, I am sure, when early arrivals ring the doorbell before one o'clock. Soon our guests--some new friends, some old--will fill our living room. Nearly half of them are Jewish, but the day now is as much a celebration of Spring as Easter. One of the guests has a birthday in a few days, so we'll toast him as well as Spring. It's been a long cold winter here in the East.

As for my daughter, I know she is at peace, at last. She has been gone now these last two Easters, this will be the third. The tears are less bitter now, and simply, fewer. I have to admit only at Mass will I have time to think about her this Sunday, and remember that first Easter so long ago. Maybe that's why I always go to church on Easter: to have the time to remember, to send my love and thoughts to her.

Sunday will be a good day.--lorraine


Susie said...

Wishing you a Happy Easter Lorraine. May you feel your daughter's love as you are remembering your love for her.

Robin said...

That is a very beautiful family picture. I can certainly see the resemblance between all of you. I am only sad that your granddaughter Lisa is not in the picture.

I hope you have a wonderful Easter, Lorraine.

Lorraine Dusky said...

Robin: I thought of that too when I posted it. I'm glad you mentioned Lisa.

Lori said...

Lorraine, may the promise of growth and life be remembered, may your joys be large and your tears be few and most of all may your grandchild and you have a new and joyous connection. Lori

Carolc said...

Wishing you a Happy Easter Lorraine - I'm so sorry your daughter isn't here to share it with you.