Easter memories are mostly about my mother. My parents were still teenagers when they married. Their youth and two early tragedies destroyed their five year old marriage. Later, my mother remarried and bore my younger sister. Somewhere, in the late 1950’s. my mother started our Easter tradition.
Easter morning in Dayton, Ohio was usually cold and frequently rainy. I don’t remember it ever snowing but I do remember it sleeting so bad it was hard to see through the windshield of the car. My mother would wake us up in the dark.
We hurriedly got ready by putting on our best clothes. If it was raining, my mom would be upset. Her rather new Renault didn’t like to start in the rain. My grandfather later found out that that condensation on the ignition wires caused them to short out. He sprayed them with a “new-fangled plastic coating” from an aerosol can. That made all rainy mornings a bit calmer in our apartment and made my grandfather a hero in my eyes.
So now my little sister, in her fanciest dress and me with my shiny, slick shoes and scratchy tweed coat are in the backseat of the car. My mother’s long blonde hair is pulled back in a tight “bun”. Her lips are red and she actually has a small hat on her head. I remember that because as short as she was, she almost knocked her hat off getting into the little Renault. Even if it was icy, she wore high heels. The car filled with the smell of her perfume. I could see my breath in the cold air inside the car. It is 6 am, Easter morning, headlights on and we are driving to Carillon Park for Easter Dawn Sunrise Service.
Carillon Historical Park is the home of the Deeds Carillon. It is an impressive bell tower that plays amazing music during Easter Sunrise Service every Easter Sunday at 6:30am. The sermon and music are broadcast by a local AM radio station so my mother turns on the car radio before we enter the park. This is supposed to be a “simulcast” but when the bells start chiming even I notice there is a delay between the real bells and the sound from the radio. From a kid’s point of view, this is the crazy part. We got all dressed up in our Sunday best and now we are sitting in a car listening to a church service on the radio! The few times I remember that were not freezing or raining, we opened the car doors and maybe stood outside. I don’t remember ever greeting anyone in the other cars.
Even as an impatient kid, the service didn’t seem to last long. The sun came up, the bells were impressive and then it was time to go. If it wasn’t raining, my mother drove to the cemetery almost next door to the park. It seemed big and old and all the little roads looked the same to me. Eventually, my mother would stop and we would follow her to a small headstone, the resting place of my older sister. The marker had an oval metal lid on top that I lifted to reveal a sepia colored photo. She was a beautiful, curly haired girl with a hat who reminded me of Shirley Temple. We were quiet and then headed back to the car.
The next stop made the whole “get up in the dark” experience worthwhile. Our nicest clothes were about to meet the sticky, messy world of pancakes and hot maple syrup as we headed for breakfast at the local pancake house. Thanks Mom.
More about the Carillon Historical Park: