Spring is fickle. Two weeks ago it showed up, in all its glory. Then, it turned its back and left again. It’s like falling for the same charming guy, who wines and dines you and says he’ll call, and you see him the following month, with some trashy skinny thing! And yet, if he calls, you are so happy to see him, you forget what a dog he is.
Spring in our family meant getting an Easter coat and sometimes a hat. That probably doesn’t seem too out of line, but we were a Jewish family so when our mother said we are going to get you an Easter coat, you ignored the directive (in terms of the religious reference) and planned on picking out something in some awful pastel color, made of an even more awful polyester fabric which, had it been near a lit flame would have gone BOOSH! Certain holidays were a bit confusing. Easter was one of them. Our family, which included my parents and sister, two aunts and uncles and one cousin, all got together at Easter to have dinner because it was a day that no one had to work. One of my aunts was a nurse so getting a day off was not guaranteed, but she made a point of making sure we had Easter together. The frequency of Easter coinciding with Passover was pretty frequent, except when the Jewish calendar included a thirteenth month so that threw everything off. Often times, we would have an Easter egg hunt in our apartment. My mother, who was the organizer and distributor of the eggs (chocolate foil wrapped) hid them in our sunken living room in various spots which often, after months went by, revealed a hidden egg that had been forgotten and still seemed to taste all right. She never really counted how many she hid, so we could always surmise that there were some placed for safekeeping for later, much later. The irony of Easter and Passover occurring simultaneously, also meant that if we found the eggs, we had to save them until after Passover, because Easter eggs were not made according to the rules of keeping kosher during the holiday. Imagine that. My mother made up her rules as she went along, and when you are a kid, that sounds good to you. Not surprising that my sense of religious observance was slightly out of step. My father had been raised in a fairly orthodox household in rural Germany, while my mother, didn’t even know what being Jewish meant as she grew up in an urban city in a different part of Germany. She identified as German without any sense of religion and had a Christmas tree and stockings. She and my father agreed on many things and were the best of friends, but they had a different view of religious instruction for my sister and me. He wanted us to read and comprehend Hebrew. My mother wanted us to get what would be considered “Hebrew School Lite”. Let’s just say that compromise is the hallmark of a good marriage.
All families have traditions, some of which are rooted in dogma. We did things because we did them, every year. That included the new coats, the egg hunts, and the forsythia. Living in an urban neighborhood in Queens, New York, we did not see a lot of greenery. We lived on a busy street that had a bus route to LaGuardia airport. Long before there were emissions control, we had beautiful tree lined streets, which fell victim to the exhaust of the cars, truck and buses and soon the trees disappeared. New ones were planted, which if I never knew the span of time between the old ones and the new ones, I would not know they were not the ones of my childhood, sixty years plus, later. Some apartment buildings had bushes and some private homes had flowers, and the churchyard down the street had daffodils, which always made me happy. My father heralded spring by taking movies of my sister and me, walking down 83rd Street in our spring finery. He would situate us near the bushes of forsythia and give us the director’s shout to walk. There was no sound, and we often felt like Charlie Chaplin’s stand-ins, as we walked woodenly down the street with our mouths moving, but no dialogue. I don’t think we had multiple takes but should have had some outtakes. We were the stars of family movies and what I repeatedly heard was “why do you insist on scowling?”. I hated being filmed, still do.
Looking back, it was important to my dad to mark the beginning of his favorite season. Forsythia are a funny bush. They bloom for just a short span of time with their yellow brilliance, which gives way to their green leaves that mark the spot till fall arrives. My sister, was also sentimental about the forsythia and planted three bushes at her house, to remember my dad, after he was gone. I am impatient for the forsythia and seeing them again, a few weeks ago, only to have the recent chill of winter’s last laugh, makes me remember some deep and satisfying moments of childhood. Spring is close….