ETA: Sorry for the palaver the other day, the affected posts all have their photos back now so I won’t be spamming your google readers any more 😉
Christmas and Easter are funny things. They might be religious holidays, but many people celebrate them despite their lack of religious leanings at any other time of year. My family always has, and I fretted about this apparent hypocrisy for a few years, before deciding that as there have also been pagan festivals at the end of December for an extremely long time, and since giving families who otherwise work hard all year a chance to spend time with each other could only be a good thing, I should just stop worrying and enjoy myself. I don’t go overboard like some people do – I like choosing presents carefully for each individual rather than confusing spending money on people with showing my love for them – but I really like having the excuse to hang out with my whole family for a few days, cuddle my dogs and get ridiculously drunk. Well, that’s what I did for Christmas 2010 anyway.
My family have Easter traditions as well. We have our chocolate Easter eggs and I’ve been the mastermind behind the early morning mini chocolate egg hunt for about a decade now. Even when I was in hospital during Easter 2007 I trotted off into the village (this being near the end of my stay, when I was allowed outside for an hour or so every day), bought some chocolate eggs and hid them all around the ward. The image of the clinically manic version of myself waking up at 5am, tiptoeing around the ward hiding eggs and giggling to myself makes me giggle to myself now! As I was high as a kite I didn’t do things by halves either – I believe there were something like 75 eggs hidden around that ward once I had finished. The patients on heavy medication were not best pleased to shuffle sleepily into the day room several hours later and find after sitting down for a while that they had melted a hidden egg onto their dressing gown. Oops.
But other than during 2007 I have always carried out my Easter bunny duties at home. My mum used to come downstairs early on Easter Sunday and hide the eggs, but one year when I was about 16 she decided that as she had to cook the roast dinner, she was going to pass the egg-related tasks onto me so she could lie in bed for longer. Fair enough. I enjoyed it anyway, it appealed to my organisation skills. Mum would buy three or four bags full of different types of eggs every year, and I would write down how many of each type everyone could find. Three mini Creme Eggs, two Galaxy truffles, two Mars Bar eggs, eight tiny solid chocolate eggs in different colour foils. And then of course at least one of my four siblings wouldn’t like one of those, so I would have to find some other way of dividing them up fairly. The list was placed on a windowsill somewhere and the siblings were set loose. A few years in my sister Claire stopped looking and started hiding with me, and a little while later my brother Tim got to that grumpy teenager stage where being asked to get out of bed before midday was akin to corporal punishment, so he stopped joining in too. But the two youngest kept at it right up until last year, despite the fact that one was 18 and the other 15.
I think my departure will probably be the end of my family’s egg hunting days. They will still get a big egg, but no little chocolate ones to find. They are all a bit old for that sort of thing now. It’s kind of sad. I loved being the orchestrator of that look of joy my youngest sister got on her face when she was still seven or eight and had just found her first egg. But age aside, I am 400 miles away from them this year. I haven’t even bothered buying myself a chocolate egg, because it seems silly when I’m not religious AND I won’t be with my family. I’ll miss the big family dinner we traditionally have on Easter Sunday too. It’s weird, even when I was really ill I loved those few days a year when we all ate together. I was so lonely and bored for most of the time, public holidays were the only time that my house was full and busy enough to distract me from all the crap in my head. I turned into a total Sergeant Major about the food aspect of course – trying to supervise the cooking and dishing out to give myself the smallest portions, half of which would end up in the dogs anyway – but I still enjoyed it more than I enjoyed most of the rest of the year. I suppose that’s what happens when you are ill for a long time. Anything different from the norm becomes precious.
I’m going home in two weeks anyway, for mum’s 50th birthday party. I won’t get homesick at Easter because I have that to look forward to, and in any case I will probably be with Jonathan this weekend. It just feels a little like the end of an era. I almost wish I still had a ward full of psychiatric patients to hide chocolate eggs for.