Easter was a lot like Christmas in our family. Not in the way of presents, but in the way of church and the family get togethers. I forget the “cutoff” age in which we were no longer “forced” to go to church for the Saturday Night Vigil, but it was probably right after confirmation. If I was a parent, I would have gladly let my kids stay home from the three hour ordeal. “How much longer”?…….”shhhhh”……… “when can we go home”……..”quiet now”, and watch what you are doing with that candle!” Actually, the lighting of the candles that we all got to hold, was my favorite part. It was something different, and the church was dark. “The Mass is now ended go in peace”…..I remember how I would amplify, “THANKS BE TO GOD”……and pretty much run out of church.
Grandma Fahrenkrug liked to go to church on Easter morning, so I do remember a few times going then. I remember one year when Grandpa Fahrenkrug went too…..which was a rarity. He was kind of like Archie Bunker when it came to church. He would say, “they always say the same thing over and over”. Well, the year I remember him going, we went to St. Gabe’s. We took their car, a 1974 Buick LeSabre which was in mint condition (dad drove). Grandpa left after communion because he needed a cigarette (and most likely had gas). When church was over, we came walking out and there was grandpa sitting in the passenger seat of the car with the door open, smoking his cigarette. Normal enough, except for the fact that he was sitting in the wrong car. Of course my brother Pete and I were the ones that caught it right away and ran over laughing our asses off…..”Grandpa, you’re sitting in the wrong car”! “Huh…….well……..what the hell”, he said. We still laugh at that story. Then there was the year we had reservations to go to The Valley Inn for brunch. We picked grandpa up after church, but when we got to the Valley Inn, grandpa realized he forgot his teeth. Even though the house was only a few blocks away, we didn’t go back and get them. By that time in his life grandpa was moving pretty slow, so it would have cut into the eating time. The only thing he could eat was eggs. Going to the Valley Inn was a special occasion and the food was really good, so he was pretty upset that he could only eat eggs. Grandma would always make sure and bring that story up every year at Easter. It is another classic.
Grandpa and Grandma Van’s was pretty much the same on Easter Sunday as it was on Christmas Eve. The Little Red House on Green Bay Rd was packed so full, the walls of the house would move in and out like it was breathing. It was always the same tradition. We would get there and goof around for a while, then all of a sudden grandpa would look out the window and say…..”Whup, here he comes, all you kids better get in the back room now, the Easter Bunny is here”. Grandma and all the other adults….. “C’mon now hurry up or he won’t leave nuthin”! There were so many of us and the house so small, they daren’t hide the baskets ahead of time because they would all be found. We all got to grandma and grandpa’s at different times (church ya know), so we always had to wait until everyone was there. It was organized chaos at its best. To the back room we went…..and waited……..what seemed like forever. When we finally got the go ahead, the organized chaos became unorganized and it was everyone for themselves. Then there were the hints…….”There aren’t any in the basement!” (the basement usually had a few inches of water in it in the spring). “There aren’t any outside either”! (it was usually raining from what I can remember). I often wonder what the kids today would say if their Easter Basket was a cool whip container with a colored pipe cleaner for a handle. They were homemade, just the way we loved them and just the way grandpa and grandma made most things for us. Those cool whip bowl Easter Baskets are now treasured memories. While there are many more Easter classics to tell, you’ll have to wait until next year to hear some more. Can’t spoil it by telling them all in one setting. Happy Easter. Have fun making memories!