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Happy Easter! Share some memories with us

American-Statesman staff
American-Statesman food critic Matthew Odam hunts eggs in 1985 at the Governor's Mansion on Easter. [Matthew Odam family photo]

It's a time when Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, and it's a time when others revel in the renewal of spring. Here, members of our staff share favorite holiday moments as we wish you a season of new memories. Happy Easter!

Welcome to the family

When my cousins, sister and I grew up, we grew out of a lot of the childhood traditions we'd enjoyed together. But one has lingered — cascarones on Easter Sunday. We'd run around in my grandparents' backyard searching for the confetti-filled dyed eggs with our Easter baskets as kids before the best part of cracking them on everyone's heads.

Now, as adults with our parents, we run around my grandma's front yard looking for the eggs and then engage in something that has become far more than a little friendly head-cracking. I think it was my tia Bonnie who started the recent tradition of hurling these colorful, surprisingly sharp projectiles at just about any body part we can reach. Just a few days ago, my cousin mentioned in a group text message that her new fiance still talks about the time her mom, Bonnie, cracked a confetti egg in his mouth.

"It's time for Kevin to pay his dues," she said, referencing my other cousin's husband. They both live in Colorado, and he hasn't yet been properly introduced to the family via the ritual that feels a little like dodgeball with much smaller, more breakable balls. If significant others can handle it, we know they're really, truly part of our wacky but wonderful familia.

It might seem a little strange for passersby in my grandma's Northeast Austin neighborhood to see a bunch of adults in their Sunday best running around in the front yard, trying to cram confetti eggs down the backs and pants of their relatives, but it's regularly one of those times when we laugh the most, too. I have the pictures to prove it.

— Arianna Auber

The perfect system

My Easter memories are all jumbled together, starting with one I know only through family lore: the egg hunt put on by our Catholic Church in Cincinnati that forever altered how my parents did Easter celebrations.

My older brother and I were 3 and 2 and ready to run out into a field on the church grounds to finds eggs and candy. We toddled out at the “Go” along with kids of various ages — and more than one parent “helper.” That is what made my Dad, a man who believes in fairness and personal responsibility, see red. He didn’t care that older kids might have an advantage, but he was not going to stand for adults practically running over his little kids to get to the goods first.

The next year — by then my younger brother had made his debut — my parents instituted the home hunt system. We each got one room in the house assigned to us, rotated each year. We’d wake up to a fresh basket with a few goodies, and then the hunt was on. Having us each in our own rooms cut down on tears and fights, especially when my younger brother, Greg, was still far behind me and Chris in physical abilities. As often with siblings, our two-against-one alliances were ever shifting, even as we remained united against the world. This system got us through the Cincinnati years, into Connecticut and finally St. Louis.

Speaking of Greg, every year my mom warned him against eating his giant chocolate Easter Bunny in one sitting, and every year he ate his giant chocolate Easter Bunny in one sitting and got sick. This makes me smile now — it’s a great memory and illustration of my brother’s appetite for life. He died from cancer, and he crammed a lot of living into his 30 years on this earth.

— Sharon Chapman

A yearly scene

Funny how family holiday details stick with you after so many years. I can tell you exactly what my Easter basket had in it as a kid. I have siblings, but there is a 12-year age difference between youngest and oldest, so my parents, or the Easter Bunny, never had to make up four Easter baskets at one time. Our baskets were low and round with the green plastic fake grass. They were stored in the basement and came out, often with the same grass, once a year.

My parents had us wait upstairs until they were sure the Easter Bunny was gone. They'd open the door, and downstairs we'd race to find our baskets in the living room, which was also the location of our egg hunt. The basket held an artfully arranged assortment of loose jelly beans, some foil-covered chocolate eggs, a Russell Stover creme-filled egg, a solid chocolate bunny and a sugar egg with a little spring scene inside. Those were the last to get eaten because it was like eating a sugar cube, and you never wanted to destroy the little scene inside. Come to think of it, I don't remember how we knew which basket belonged to whom. Maybe we just sorted it out by the scenes inside the sugar eggs. I liked the black jelly beans, so my siblings would give me theirs because no one else liked them. After we sampled some of our loot, we had our egg hunt. The eggs we found would be used later to make our favorite breakfast of "eggs goldenrod" — basically creamed eggs with crumbled yolks on top that looked like goldenrod wildflowers.

When my son was old enough to get a basket from the Easter Bunny, I lovingly bought each item and arranged it like mine was when I was his age. I even had a basket that we'd used from way back. The treats were a bit different: malted milk ball robin's eggs, a Cadbury egg, jelly beans (which I learned my son didn't like), a chocolate bunny and a "Thomas the Tank Engine" collectible. A large box was delivered a few days before Easter from my son's grandparents. I pulled out the largest Easter basket I had ever seen. Wrapped in crinkly colored wrap with a large bow on top, it was filled with a stuffed bunny, toys and sweets. It made my basket look like a poor relation. I had been so excited to see my son's face when he discovered the basket the Easter Bunny brought him that was based on my memories. I felt obligated to give him the one from his grandparents instead. I told him the homespun basket was left for me by the Easter Bunny. At least we could still make the eggs goldenrod with the eggs he found; no one could take that tradition away.

— Nell Carroll

Have eggs, will travel

Besides my father’s and my pale blue suits and the beautiful dresses worn by my mother and sister, the thing I remember most fondly about Easter is the ritual of the Easter egg hunt.

My sister and I woke with the eagerness attendant to Christmas morning. Mom and Dad hid plastic eggs throughout the backyard while my sister and I waited impatiently inside. We’d remove the Easter Bunny stuffed animals from our wicker baskets and scamper across the yard in search of the sugary loot, each year relying less and less on hot-or-cold clues from my parents. We’d crack open the plastic eggs we found, revealing morsels of tinfoil-wrapped chocolate and proceed to try not to ruin our pajamas.

The best part of the ritual was that it traveled. We spent many springs in the rustic cabins of Rio Bonito in Wimberley. Easter mornings there would find us searching the verdant rolling lawns along the Blanco for hidden eggs and then repairing to a blanket in the grass to devour chocolate and read the Easter story from the Bible. The hunt had to wait one year as we attended a sunrise service in a roadside park before heading to a pancake breakfast sponsored by the Lions Club at the Wimberley Community Center.

As my sister and I grew older, the ritual waned. But it returned on an April morning during my teenage years. Mom, Dad and I visited my sister at her college in Nashville. The Easter Bunny visited, too. We spent a ridiculous few minutes searching the hotel room’s beds and couch for colorful plastic eggs. I think Mom loved the ritual as much as we did. Probably more.

— Matthew Odam

The memories remain

My Easter memory is unconventional.

I think it was Easter 1998. I was at home in Orange with my family. We'd had a terrific lunch, and everyone settled in to watch the final round of the Masters. Daddy was napping in his easy chair. My dog, Max, decided to sleep under said chair and woke up when Daddy's dog, Ewok, came by. Max, a much smaller Lhasa apso, decided to growl at Ewok, the Chow. It woke up my father, who started calling Max all sorts of names. Ewok understood and said he'd take care of the dog discipline. I was a step ahead and trying to shoo Max out of the way with my foot. That's why Ewok chomped down on my bare foot rather than catching a bunch of Max's fur in his mouth.

I spent the rest of the afternoon at the ER and was on all sorts of pain meds and antibiotics for the rest of the month. But two decades later, there's no sign of a scar from the 12 stitches on the side of my foot.

Family holiday time can mean ER time.

— Suzanne Halliburton

Open arms

I'm not quite sure how you would describe the voice my best friend Beth and I decided to adopt for our Snapchat Easter greeting. It was somewhere between "Mike Myers in the 'Coffee Talk' sketch on 'Saturday Night Live'" and "Ellen Greene in 'Little Shop of Horrors.'" Barbra Streisand was pretty far from my mind that Sunday morning, but I was perhaps thinking of somewhere that's green.

We sat on Beth's Ikea couch in her Brackenridge Street duplex (no longer there; now an ugly, boxy condo). Our social circles had been communicating with each other solely in short video clips and filtered selfies sent through social media lately. On this Easter, our mutual friends received a masterpiece, the two of us braying "Happy Eastah!" in repetition.

It was 2014, not even a year after I'd come out of the closet to my friends and family (and myself, truth be told). Observing Easter the way I always had did not seem like an option. Seeing the people I loved, with whom I celebrated the hope of Jesus all my life, hurt unspeakably. And the idea of entering a church I knew hated what I was, even if they wouldn't say it out loud, filled me with despair. Maybe anger? Definitely bitterness.

So, in the grand tradition of Armistead Maupin, my chosen family and I made funny videos of ourselves before a long Interstate 35 drive to Metropolitan Community Church, an LGBT-friendly congregation in South Austin. I remember the sermon there acknowledged that Easter Sunday — a day that's supposed to be about death's defeat with a rolled-away stone — didn't feel all that hopeful for many people in the seats. Maybe it reminded them of where they weren't. 

The pastors at Metropolitan Community Church called people up in lines to the altar for blessings. They embraced each person. Beth and I looked at each other happily. A stone rolled away.

Remembering Beth sitting next to me, both of us paler than usual in the fluorescent light of the sanctuary, or in our Sunday best on an Ikea couch, also makes me think about the late nights we've sat in cars yelling about things that have caused us pain. I think about how sometimes, the place you go to be loved for what you are isn't a place, but a person.

— Eric Webb