The many colored strings
The boys couldn’t wait to get downstairs on Easter morning. The Easter Bunny had come, they knew that. And there would be an egg hunt and candy, and the surge of excitement would subside into a languorous morning of playing with the little treats that they found in their baskets. (Until Church, at least.)
The years pass and make some of the mysteries of childhood clear. The egg hunt was over in the matter of minutes: 54 colored plastic eggs, filled with jelly beans, coins and some stray dollars gathered up in the running frenzy of three little boys. It wasn’t enough time. We hardly got to see them light up with the excitement that comes when you realize you are in the midst of an unusual and special moment, and your body is infused with a joyful swell that tumbles into unfettered excitement.
That is a moment when your love as a parent is transferred into something immediate and simple. A sit-back and enjoy moment.
I don’t know how many of those moments my parents experienced. I certainly don’t have an image of them intimate and to the side while their children played. There was too much that was spoken and unspoken between them. They were like two trains that had pulled off from the roundhouse onto separate tracks, but were coupled impossibly together to a random car far behind. They had reached the point where they couldn’t move forward without ripping that common car, and all the ones beyond, apart.
That’s not to say that there weren’t the memories of childhood joy. Easter was one of those. Our parents sometimes created elaborate and unusual experiences, resourceful and creative despite meager means.
We woke up one Easter Morning, early despite having been up late the night before at the Easter Vigil, to discover at the foot of the stairs a tangle of colored strings.
There was a colored string for each of us, even our retarded sister who could barely stand, never mind walk. From the stairs, each string led out into the living room, intertwined but distinct, crossing paths here and there, disappearing under cushions and behind tables until they led out of the room in different directions.
These strings were like the mystery of our life in their contradictions of chaos and determination. My sisters and I each took our string and felt our way through our private maze. Our parents and grandparents helped the little ones and our retarded sister. The clamor was general and excited.
The Easter baskets were at the end. There was no comparing. They were glorious: big and filled with candy and goodies, simple and munificent. They were metaphoric in their own crazy way, the uncovering of a mystery, a surprising surfeit.
That was an Easter of simple joy. It led into the tensions of the day, an uneasiness between the adults in the house, disappointment around the crumbling neck of the Lamb cake, which was too delicate to withstand the weight of its coconut frosting. Later Easters were more bitter –an angry drive in a bitterly cold car to a Vigil far away, outbursts of hopeless tears in an exchange of cutting words. The miracle of the Ressurection makes the purgatory of unhappiness unbearable in a moment.
But I knew then what I was taught the morning of the many colored strings: that the bright twine that I was unraveling in my own life, no mattered how twisted it was or how many times it crossed with the other twines of my family, led to its own place that held a mystery that had been prepared just for me, with Love.