I have many memories of my grandmother. One of them centers around Easter Sunday. My grandmother was a devout Christian and went to the Lutheran church. We were all Lutherans. Even her father-in-law, our great-grandfather, was a Lutheran minister. Some cousins in Iowa endowed the Lutheran Seminary at Wartburg College in Waverly, Iowa, and the library was named after my grandfather’s family. So, of course, we grew up as Lutherans. Easter was a big deal. Every Easter we’d get new dresses, hats, shoes and little handbags. We even had new socks with a little bit of lace around the cuff.
Me, my sister and our little brother in our fancy duds.
Then we’d get in the car and drive to the service, which was grand and glorious, but a little overwhelming to us little ones. Mrs. Melvin played the enormous organ. I think I loved church mostly for her playing. The altar would be arrayed with pots and pots of Easter lilies. Everyone was on their best behavior. It felt a little like I imagine the festivities at “Downton Abbey” might have felt. The weather was always gorgeous and then there was Easter dinner afterwards.
This is where Grandmother came in. She was always the consummate cook. She put up most of her own food, and she baked such good angel food cakes that the people in town came to her with requests, and she’d bake the cakes and sell them for a little side money.
Easter dinner always included home-cured ham and fried chicken from chickens she raised herself. She baked Parkerhouse rolls and, even though she didn’t have a cow by that time, her butter was the best tasting I’ve ever had. Maybe she got the fresh churned butter from some of the cousins who still had a dairy cow. There would be mashed potatoes and green beans with almonds. There was always the ubiquitous jello mold with lime or orange jello and carrots and pineapple.
To go along with the ham, my grandmother made the best sweet pickled corn relish. And at the end there would be the angel food cake with strawberry preserves spooned liberally over it all. It’s a wonder we weren’t all obese. Well, some of us were a little, as they say, hefty, but I guess with all the work that was done before and after dinner we had a chance to burn it off.
After it was all done and my mom and Grandmother retired to the kitchen to clean up a bit, we children would go out on the front porch where Grandmother had a porch swing and we’d just crank that sucker up. Looking back it’s wonder we didn’t fly off the porch and land in the doctor’s office. Sister and brother would get on and I would get in back and push like my life depended on it. We didn’t have a concept of danger, and we never looked up to see if the screws eyes were holding. It was just great fun.
Now those days are long gone. Grandmother passed away years ago. Even Mother and Dad are gone now. We “youngsters” are still here, and someday we’ll be gone, too. In the meantime those wonderful memories will live on and, if I can, I will try to make Easter Sunday for my family the way Grandmother would make it.
Happy Easter to everyone!