As a small child, we lived directly across the driveway from my beloved grandparents.
On Easter Sunday, after we attended church in our Sunday best, consumed too much food, and changed into comfortable spring clothes, my mother would help me fix up a small basket of Easter treats. Eggs we dyed as a family, typical Easter holiday candies, and of course, plastic grass. Some years we used the pink basket, sometimes the yellow.
After we filled it with goodies, mom would send me out on my way. I’d sneak across our porch, down into our yard, and across the driveway as quickly as possible. Then I darted toward the corner of my grandparent’s house and quietly made my way up the steep hill they built their house into, occasionally slipping on the pine needles.
And then the hopping began.
From the back corner of their house to their back porch, I would hop, hop, hop. I held the basket in both hands, just like I imagined the Easter Bunny did the night before when he delivered goodies to our house. As I neared the porch, I could always hear my Grandma’s voice in the kitchen spilling out into the backyard through the open window. Ever so gently, I would place the basket right in front of the sliding glass door. Then I’d gather all the courage I could muster, ring the doorbell, and run back around the corner of the house.
And I would wait.
She always made a big deal, speaking loudly as she opened the back door.
“Well, look here, Peter. It seems the Easter Bunny visited us after all and left us a basket of treats and eggs. We sure are lucky to have such a great Easter Bunny!”
Hand over my mouth, I would giggle as quietly as possible before slip-sliding back down the hill and skittering back across the driveway. Eventually my four person family unit moved up the hill onto another section of The Farm, and my Secret Easter Bunny Job included the added task of walking down the hill and long hollow between our houses. But I still ran up the their hill and then hopped to their back door.
Through high school and into college, and once as an adult, home for the holidays with my own children.
She’s gone now—both of them. The house now belongs to a new family.
I’ve been toying with the idea of walking down the hill, through the hollow, and back up across the driveway to leave a basket on their front porch. I don’t think I can slip up the hill and hop across the back of their house; my heart might break into a thousand pieces when my ears hear another woman’s voice float through the window of the kitchen.
Holidays remain hard, these first ones without her and the continuous ones without my Grandpa’s presence, his big voice and laugh. I’d give anything for a bear hug of epic proportions, for the two of them to fawn over my sons again; to hear her approve of my outfit, to call me her Wren.
We’ll need to start making new traditions, saving up new memories. But this year feels hard and raw. I know she’d want us to enjoy the holiday of pastel colors—her favorite—and so I’m trying.
But then I open the drawer in her buffet, now mine; I open it and nearly fall to my knees as the smell washes over me, through me. It smacks into my soul and awakes a thousand and one buried memories. It is the smell of my grandmother’s house, lovingly folded into her best tablecloths, one for each holiday. Now mine.
I know the smell will fade over time. One day I will open the drawer to retrieve a tablecloth and it will smell like my house, not hers. I know I’m in charge of not just carrying these memories of holidays and the days in between, but sharing them with my sons, with others.
Last Easter, we didn’t know she wouldn’t be with us this year. But I know the job of creating new traditions begins where these words leave off, with me.