Easter Time Remembrances

Rabbit in Cabbage 2While I am quite fond of them now, as a child I disliked eggs intensely. I vividly remember sitting in front of an eggcup containing a boiled egg and staring at the hateful thing as it grew cold. The rule was that I couldn’t get up from the table until I had finished whatever meal I was supposed to be eating. Sadly, I hated to sit still and perhaps would have been termed hyperactive if such a term had existed then. However, sooner or later I suppose I must have swallowed the contents of the eggcup and been released from my chair. The eating of it is not recorded in my memory.

While I certainly have some happy Easter memories I also have one that is not so. However, it is still vivid in my mind even after the many years filled with all the things I surely have forgotten. This was during World War II. My parents kept chickens, both for eggs and for food. We had quite a large flock of hens, and as I recall a rooster or two. There were times when they laid many more eggs than we needed. As anyone who has kept them will know, chickens lay in cycles, sometimes more sometimes less. When we had overage, my parents would sell the eggs to friends and occasionally to acquaintances.

This particular Easter I might have been eight or ten. My parents had too many eggs and decided to have an Easter egg hunt. All of their friends and most of their acquaintances had children so there were plenty of guests anticipated. The adults would have cocktails while the children hunted for eggs, and the person who found the most got a prize. While they hid them, I was told to stay in my room so I would not see where they were. Later they decided I ought not to participate because it was up to the guests to find them.

Fast forward to a happy memory: When my oldest daughters were grown enough to know about the Easter bunny they decided there ought to be one for the parents. Their father and I hid candy eggs for them and their younger siblings in various places in the house. Each year they in turn spent their own money for candy eggs for us and hid them in the kitchen, having told us it was off limits to hide eggs. Their delight as we hunted was a great joy, and what fun we had uncovering the Parent Easter bunny’s gifts.

Holidays often trigger memories of times gone by. These can be a treasure to hold and caress, most especially if they concern any who have passed on from this life. If there is sadness for us in them, perhaps it can be tempered by the happiness of our recollections. The most precious memories are those that remain for us to recount and perhaps to share with those who come after us. I once recorded my father on tape telling me about the chickens he had as a boy. There were only a few and they didn’t last long. Perhaps they were the inspiration for the ones he had as an adult that laid the eggs I so disliked yet remember so well.

The Three Bite Rule

When I was growing up there was no such thing in my family as not eating what was put before you, or of getting up from the table before you had finished what was on your plate. The “starving children in China” statement was applied whenever I protested. I learned to swallow pieces of liver as if they were pills, with gulps of milk. However I was unable to cope well with the frequent soft boiled eggs, and finally my mother stopped giving them to me. I have memories of sitting at the table staring at the egg in its shell in the egg cup in front of me. That was one battle I won. Not until I was an adult did I learn to like soft boiled eggs and I never did learn to appreciate liver.

My mother built her cooking around my dad’s taste, so much of what we ate was pretty standard. She believed in providing nutritious food, and though plain, it was. Despite the fact that she really didn’t like to cook, she understood that providing nourishment is an important aspect of caring that nature has built into mothers, and she did her best. All too often family members, like me as a child, do not express appreciation for the family cook’s labors in the kitchen. Though it didn’t occur to me as a child, as an adult I personally think they might be grateful someone has taken the trouble to make a meal for them to eat.

As regular readers of my column know, I have always enjoyed cooking. I find it satisfying as well as enjoyable. One aspect of this is that I prefer to prepare meals from scratch. Some might be surprised to learn I don’t own a microwave, nor do I wish to. I even like chopping food by hand rather than using a machine, peeling my fruit and vegetables, and doing all the hands on work that is required to use completely fresh ingredients rather than prepackaged ones. I do not claim that this is particularly virtuous on my part. It is simply my preference.

This is because putting myself into the meal is part of my joy in the creation of it. My energy goes directly into the chopping, the peeling, the mixing and the stirring. This is my purposeful contribution to the health and welfare of those I love and fix food for. I am fortunate to have an appreciative husband who enjoys whatever I prepare. I had one once who wasn’t and his influence on our younger children made quite a difference in what they were willing to eat. He was a meat and potatoes man and we were on a casserole budget, so complaints were often made. Yet being hungry he still ate whatever it was.

I tried to make interesting meals, and I used to tell my children they had to eat three bites of whatever I served them or I would make them eat the whole thing. Fortunately young children are not logical and none of them ever figured out how if they wouldn’t eat three bites, how could I get them to eat the whole thing? I even did this with their playmates and guests. Today one of my delights is to introduce people to foods they may not have experienced–at least not the way I prepare it. However, I don’t tell them they must eat three bites or I’ll make them eat the whole thing.

Tasha Halpert

Salad and casserole 3

And God Bless the Caterpillars by Tasha Halpert

And God Bless the Caterpillars

LLisa's butterfly My dandelion headed five-year-old is saying his prayers. He includes the caterpillars in their jars on the window sill. We had filled the jar with what we hoped was the appropriate leaves for food and twigs to climb, and each night we prayed for them. The time was 1968, and my son was one of five, active bright friendly loving children.

The caterpillars munched, spun cocoons on the twigs, and were quiet. We waited in vain for butterflies to emerge. Together we concluded that caterpillars did not do well in captivity and perhaps it was better for them to go free. Lessons on many levels were learned from the experience. I don’t know whether my son remembers the caterpillars, but he is now a grown man with a strong sense of curiosity, a fine capacity for observation and a desire to do some good in the world. The eager child lives on in the man.

One day the family visited someone who had guinea pigs. Naturally the children were fascinated and the pet shop that sold us our first pair agreed to buy back progeny. I was delighted at the opportunity to give the children a first hand lesson in biology, and all went well until we elected to do a breeding experiment. Unfortunately our breeding program coincided with a glut of guinea pigs at the pet shop. My living room filled up with boxes holding a total of fifteen furry squeakers and any time the refrigerator door opened, a chorus of squeals filled the house.

In the process my oldest daughters found out first hand that one cannot always rely on original solutions but must plan for contingencies, and of course they had graphic experience in where babies come from! Now that they have had their own children, they have fostered the same sense of adventure in their offspring and have carried on the same love affair with nature.

Nature is a great teacher of many things, and the care with which it is arranged has a significant message for us. We are part of the cycles of emergence, growth, and return to the whole. We circulate life energy the way a tree does. Once we believed we were in charge but this conviction is eroding with our recognition of the results of that belief. Our attunement to the part we play in the natural order of life seems to me to be more important than ever to our growth as healthy, positive human beings.

Parenting seems best learned by experience. Children are resilient. With goodwill, grace and good luck most of us will succeed in raising well adjusted children. Doing what we most enjoyed with our youngsters often results in happiness for all, but observing and participating in the processes of nature can easily and quickly return us to the joys of childhood as well as bring us pleasure in the present.

Looking together at snowflake crystals, searching for seashells, tenderly weeding small gardens—the days of my companionship with my children are cherished memories. I learned as much from them as they did from me. Nature is a great teacher and I am grateful to her for the lessons I learned as well as the beauty I have received. I am proud, too, of my children for their positive attitudes and approach to life, much of which was learned at Mother Nature’s knee. And I say with my son, God bless the caterpillars, God bless them all.