One of the things that always excites me about Easter is that it kicks off the spring and summer season so Sundays, until Labor Day weekend, will be the stuff of which memories are made. Especially for kids.
When I go back into the far reaches of my mind, it is summer Sundays that I recall most vividly. Those days were often spent with my cousins down at the swimming hole where we splashed, dunked and inner tubed the river. Afterwards, we'd dash back to the house to find our daddies rocking on the front porch, plead for a dollar and then head out, often bare-footed, to the country store where the wood floor squeaked, the screen door banged and the RC Colas were always ice cold.
I cannot, for the life of me, remember distinctly one winter Sunday afternoon. Those cold, dreary days have escaped the captive of my mind. Aw, but the warm weather, though it brought with it mosquitoes, chiggers, snakes and pesky fruit flies, is memorable for cold watermelons, homemade ice cream and joy that grows and spreads in warm sunshine.
Those happy days always began with Easter and Easter always began with a brand new outfit.
"How did we ever get started with the tradition of having new clothes on Easter," I asked a friend, not really expecting her to know.
I should have known better. Southern women always have an answer. Even if it is highly imagined or created.
"It signifies the beginning of all things new," she responded authoritatively. "Christ died on Good Friday and arose on Easter, so that signified the dawning of the Day of Grace. It was a new day. That's why we have new clothes to wear on Easter Sunday."
I think she made that up, but it sounds good, so I'll just go with that. Last Easter, for the first time in several years, I found the perfect hat and outfit for Easter. I was so proud and eager to walk the aisle. But I never made it to church. My Uncle Delbert, battling lung cancer that would steal his life four months later, needed me. Aunt Kath had not left his side in months and she longed so to go to church on Easter.
"I just miss it so bad," she said. "But I can't leave him alone."
"You go to church and I'll stay with him," I said. "I'll go to sunrise service and breakfast then I'll come over to stay with him."
She protested but I insisted. She returned in time for me to make it to the filming of the annual family Easter parade. Which has presented a dilemma for this year. I can wear the hat and outfit from last Easter for church this year but I can't wear the same outfit for the Easter parade. It's filmed and a hundred years from now, folks will look at it and say, "Look at ol' great, great, great Aunt Ronda. She wore the same Easter outfit two years in a row."
Of course, I could turn this into a lesson for the generations to come. I could carry a sign that says, "In 2009, times were hard and new clothes were scarce. Save for a rainy day."
That's actually a pretty good idea.
Meanwhile, I welcome Easter and the dawning of a new season, where memories will bloom. For the kids in our family, things are different than they were in my childhood. They swim in a pool, not a swimming hole. Their feet are rarely bare, they've never walked to the store and I seriously doubt that one of them has ever heard of RC Cola.
Change can be sad. On the other hand, though, we still have mosquitoes, snakes, chiggers and pesky fruit flies.
Long live summers in the South that begin with Easter.
Ronda Rich is the best-selling author of "What Southern Women Know About Faith." Visit www.rondarich.com to sign up for her newsletter.