Sunday, April 04, 2010


Easter was such a strange holiday when I was a kid.  I would describe my upbringing as secular, except that word somehow implies that my parents deliberately raised me in a non-spiritual fashion, but that wouldn't be accurate.  My siblings, all older than me, had some vague religious underpinnings to their childhood, and the family as a whole used to attend church on some kind of regular basis.  But by the time I came along, that was all in the past.  No particular reason, it just sort of happened.  There were bibles on various shelves throughout the house, but no one ever got them down.

As a result, I had no concept of the resurrection, or even who Jesus was.  Such ignorance of the religious significance of a holiday did nothing to dampen my enthusiasm for Christmas, which I accepted as a general mid-winter festival of good will.  Plus, Christmas involved presents.  But Easter?  Eh, it was just sort of there, and there were no presents involved, only dyed eggs and an odd fixation on bunnies and...not much else.  Sure, there were chocolate eggs, but Mom wasn't exactly stingy when it came to handing out candy the rest of the year, so this was nothing unusual.

Thus, my memories of Easter are pretty much non-existent.  Except for one: Easter morning of 1974.  I was eight, and since most of my brothers and sisters still lived at home, I had no room to call my own.  I slept on the couch in the living room, my small territory marked by a pile of comic books and tablets behind my makeshift bed.  I'd fall asleep every night to whatever was on TV, and usually wake up before anyone else, the drone of early morning DJs a faint sound from Mom and Dad's bedroom.

So it was on this particular morning as well, except there seemed to be something beside me, something I could only half-see in the dark.  My hand fumbled, and I felt the legs of the TV tray that I used to eat all my meals.  But I never had that beside me as I slept.  What was going on?

I turned on the light, and there on top of the tray sat a variety of candy, some gaudily-colored eggs and--as a centerpiece--the latest issue of my favorite comic book at the time, The Shadow.  Mom had bought me the previous issues out of the blue; I was strictly into war comics and westerns, and this avenging hero stuff wasn't really my thing.  But The Shadow was a different kind of hero--he shot guys and killed them.  I was instantly hooked, and Mom must have noticed how I carried those two issues around obsessively, and reread them constantly.  So when she saw the latest issue in the grocery store, she must have figured it would make the ideal Easter present.

How right she was.  I couldn't tell you what I did for the rest of that day, but that small, perfect moment is something that has stayed with me for nearly four decades.  A mysterious, fedora-wearing figure taking out a cruise ship full of neo-Nazis probably doesn't figure into many people's Easter memories, but it will always be the happiest part of mine.