It's the pageantry of it all that I remember most.
Weeks before Easter, my mother would hit Macy's, searching through the sale rack for the perfect dress and hat and white gloves and slip and patent leather purse and shoes for me -- blue, soft green, maybe pink if the fabric wasn't too loud. And on that special day, hours after she'd stood in the kitchen whipping up roast ham and macaroni and cheese and collards and candied yams and home made biscuits for our special Easter Sunday dinner, my mother would wake my brother and I -- tell us it was time to get ready. She'd lay out those pretty clothes on my bed and I'd gently pull on my tights and pack my purse with peppermints and stand in the bathroom doorway, watching my mother blot her lipstick and dab a little perfume behind each ear.
She was beautiful every Sunday, but on Easter Sunday, she was radiant. Because her kids were shined up and looking right. And we had tucked in our pockets and our hearts Bible verses and anecdotes that we'd present to the entire Sunday school, a performance that always made my mom, a Sunday school teacher, super proud. Mostly, my mother strutted her stuff on Easter Sunday because it was her favorite holiday of the year; the celebration of the resurrection of Christ held deep meaning to her as a faithful Christian, and our performance of the scriptures made her feel like she was nourishing our souls.
And that, she did. Religiously. Through sun and storm, riches and hard times, whether happy or sad, my mother had us in church every Sunday -- saw it as her motherly duty to make sure we were spiritually fed.
I enjoyed it, too -- especially the dressing up part, and the singing, and the stories. It was in the pews of St. John's Baptist Church that I learned about honesty and trust, love and righteousness, kindness and compassion. How to do the right thing, even when it wasn't always the easiest thing to do. Mercy. Goodness.
But as I grew older and became more independent and started finding my own way through adulthood, I strayed away from the altar -- would wake up on Sunday and find twenty other things to do rather than get myself to church. It's not that I fell out of love with God; I just fell in love with life, and church on Sundays didn't really fit into that anymore.
Until I became a mom. I can hardly explain how the miracle of birth -- the journey of my baby from my womb to my arms -- changed me spiritually. After years of being away, I wanted, suddenly, to run to the altar -- to praise Him for bringing me immeasurable joy and to beg His forgiveness for straying and to ask that He protect my gift so that she, too, could grow up in The Word and take in all the valuable lessons that would help her become the kind of human being God intends for her to be. Finally, as a mom, I understood my mother's passion for getting us to church on time, every Sunday, come heck or high water. Going to church was as necessary as breathing air.
We had a church home that we absolutely adored when we lived in New Jersey; the pastor and congregation provided just the right mix of religion and soulfulness with social responsibility and passion that Nick and I were searching for when we started finding our way to Sunday service. We still feel an overwhelming need to show our faithfulness to God and certainly to instill in our daughters the same love and commitment to being solid human beings. But we haven't been able to find a congregation that gives us the same passion and satisfaction as the one we left behind when we moved. Ain't that nothing? We did a literal church tour around our area in Georgia and found... nothing. In the Bible belt, no less. There's no shortage of pageantry here, but finding a church that fulfills us is proving elusive.
And I'm feeling like my babies are missing something.
That I've fallen down on the job.
It is this that I'll be thinking about this Easter Sunday as we celebrate something that was oh-so-important and deeply beautiful to my mother. That is still important and deeply beautiful to me. Our church search continues. No worries -- we're not the kind who show up to church only on Easter Sunday, dressing up like peacocks and taking up all the good seats from the faithful members who attend more than just a few Sundays during the year. I used to have some serious contempt for people like that, so I wouldn't dare do it now. But I do plan to wake up Sunday morning and share with my daughters what I know about The Resurrection, why it's important to me and all Christians, and certainly to thank God for loving me and mine, even when we falter. Especially so.
And I'll pray that one day soon, we'll find what we're searching for.