We didn’t get new clothes all that often, and brand-new clothes seldom. Easter was an exception to the rule. Mom took us shopping at JCPenney’s or Sears, allowing us to choose from racks of impractical, pastel dresses. When I was little, we also wore Easter bonnets, back when department stores had sections that included fancy hats for little girls as a standard option. When the boys came around, they were forced into pastel, vested outfits with clip on bow ties too.
When my girls were little, I forced them into coordinating dresses on Easter and was in my prime. This year, they wore shorts and T shirts and were just as happy.
Every household has a different way that they “do” Easter, a different set of rules whereby the magical bunny delivered candy and small toys into the hands of kids, just coming down from the sugar high of hoarded Valentine candy. In our house, we pulled out the same plastic baskets from year to year and filled them with re-used, cellophane grass in either green or pink. Strands of this clear plastic monstrosity could still be found hiding in the house well into summer, sticking to bare feet. The bunny would leave candy and trinkets in the baskets. The only things hidden were eggs. They real, hard boiled eggs that we colored the previous Friday. Mom always made sure to keep count of how many eggs there were, as none could be left behind. Because, as I mentioned, she hid real, sulfur-smelling boiled eggs in the house.
Inevitably, Mom couldn’t remember exactly where she hid them all and, equally inevitably, we were missing a few Sunday night. They always turned up in a day or two. Except for that one year when we didn’t discover the errant egg until well into August, nestled in the top of the light fixture over the dining room table. Mom must have went to dust it or change a bulb, and discovered the egg. I don’t think it smelled at all. It went into some strange desiccation mode. The boiled egg withing the bright green shell had contracted onto itself. When one shook the egg, it felt as though there were a small rubber ball rattling inside the shell. And we all shook it on numerous occasions, as mom kept the egg tucked behind the kitchen TV as a sort of conversation piece, pulled out at get-togethers as an ice breaker.
When I became and Easter bunny, we only hid plastic eggs filled with candy. We still dye eggs, of course, on Good Friday. Everyone must have their name egg, and I derive great satisfaction from multi-dipped, ombre eggs. The smell of vinegar will always evoke memories of carefully suspended eggs and paper towels splattered in pasted. Our dyed eggs are brought out for decoration on the Easter table and quickly eaten. Not hidden under the couch, inside a Barbie house, or in someone’s shoe (all “classic” hiding places in the Bier house.)
Mom made a lamb cake every year for Easter. She bought the Wilton mold when I was an infant or before, as I can’t recall an Easter in which the hallowed lamb cake was not attempted. The first half dozen years or so, she must have still been working on the recipe. Until she found the right mix, the lamb generally fell apart in some way, and was a lamb in spirit only.
Eventually she found a good, solid pound cake recipe that held its shape well, and perfected the baking time to ensure that it actually cooked all the way through its lamby self. The Easters of my childhood, before she went to work and when there were three girls at home to help with the baking, the lamb cake was in its glory. We would carefully pipe buttercream on the lamb using a start tip, and dye coconut green to create the lamb’s bed. It was a delicious pound cake recipe, and the buttercream was equally delectable. The lamb was gone by Easter eve.
When I left home for college, I don’t think that anyone was nearly as fastidious with the lamb cakes. I recall a couple of years when my brothers were in charge of decorations and the eyes were either shocking pink jelly beans or strips of licorice whips formed into an “X”. Oh, well, still tasted good. This year, mom baked only for herself and dad, and therefore made a miniature lamb cake, using a loaf pan and a plastic lamb head on a pick that she kept around for emergencies.
I didn’t bake a lamb cake this year. The girls are baking some cupcakes from supplies that Grandma sent them. I’m in charge of roast potatoes and salad while Jimmy prepares the best form of lamb–smoke leg.