Church, tradition mark 'most important holy day'

April 03, 1994|By Michael A. Fletcher | Michael A. Fletcher,Sun Staff Writer

Amid a lot of solemn talk about the decline of families and the growing commercialization of Easter, Jessie Scott was planning to bake a chocolate layer cake.

She was going to do this because today is Easter and because Scott family tradition dictates that you celebrate the holiest of Christian holidays by gathering for church and then a family dinner, complete with cake.

"In our family, Easter is a day for everybody to get together, go to church, share our thoughts and feelings and have a big, old meal," laughed Vernita Scott, Jessie Scott's 32-year-old daughter.

Easter may not bring the family celebration it once did for some families, but for the Scotts it still means Easter baskets crammed with stuffed animals, coloring books and crayons for the youngest children; plastic Easter eggs with jazzy earrings inside for the teen-age girls; new hairdos and pretty outfits, fellowship and fun.

It still means a huge after-church dinner of ham, turkey or chicken, candied yams with raisins and pineapple, hot biscuits and green beans. There will be plenty of desserts, including, of course, chocolate cake.

After that, they'll break out the Monopoly game, the playing cards and the video games. While the adults play, some of the teen-agers may show off their new outfits at the Inner Harbor. Maybe some of the younger ones will visit a nearby kiddie disco. For the Scotts, this is Easter. And they would not want it any other way.

"For me, this is the most important holy day of the year," said Jessie Scott, 57, president of the congregation at Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church in East Baltimore. "But outside of church, it means that our family usually gets together to visit, chat and have a fun day. I love it. I love to see the kids dressed up."

This year, Mrs. Scott and Thomas Sr., her husband of 39 years, will not hold the family festivities in their home above the variety store they have owned at East Fayette and Chester streets for 22 years.

This is a first.

Instead, their son Bruce, a video technician, will have the family -- dinner at his home on East North Avenue. Bruce insisted that he and his wife, Angie, do the honors, partly because they want to show off their neatly furnished new home to the rest of the family.

So today, four generations of Scotts will pile into the rented rowhouse for dinner. It's hard to imagine Bruce being any more proud.

"This is the first year I had enough space, so I decided I'd invite everybody," Bruce explained. "I figured I'd go for it. Let everybody see this side of me."

The new dinner locale aside, the Scotts' Easter ritual promises to be pretty much as it always is.

That means Jessie Scott is spearheading the affair. Her day promised to begin in the kitchen, baking that cake. She expected to get it into the oven by 2 a.m., a couple of hours after finishing her 13-hour stint in the family store.

Then, she planned to sleep a few hours before rising early to make a round of wake-up calls to her children.

"I can hear her on the phone, 'Just checking, making sure you're getting ready,' " Bruce laughed. "I always try to sound like I was up already, even though she usually catches me fast asleep."

If all goes as planned, most of Mrs. Scott's brood -- four children, 11 grandchildren and one great-grandchild -- will be at Trinity church in time for the 10 a.m. service.

They will be wearing their Easter best. Mrs. Scott plans to wear an off-white suit. Her 13-year-old granddaughter, Arnechia Cropper, spent most of Friday picking out her outfit: plaid jacket, navy blue skirt, white blouse. She's not wearing a bonnet this year. She spent much of yesterday in the beauty shop, getting her hair styled.

Most Sundays, Mrs. Scott can count on a couple of family members accompanying her to church. But Easter is different. The whole family goes to church Easter Sunday, except Thomas Sr., a city public works employee. He'll be working in the store.

"He doesn't really mind. He is mostly unchurched anyway," Jessie Scott said with a loving smile.

Mr. Scott also smiled at the prospect of missing church. "I work seven days a week," he said. "Gotta do it."

After church, most of the family plans to go to Owings Mills to visit the grave of Ronnie Scott, who died in 1987 of pneumonia. He was 31.

"It is taking everyone a long time to get over that," said Bruce, explaining that his brother's death was a shock to the family.

"To us, that was like something off television, him dying," he continued. "We have a 'Brady Bunch,' 'Leave it to Beaver' type family. None of us got into serious trouble, incarcerated or anything. When he passed, that was something that just wasn't supposed to happen."

He said Ronnie's death brought the family even closer together. Bruce said he is in touch with most of his siblings almost every week and they get together regularly. Usually, they sit around playing old Isley Brothers and War records and "reminiscing about the old days," he said.

After going to the cemetery, the Scotts plan to reassemble at the family store. Then, they will be off to Bruce's for dinner.

"In my opinion, a lot of people have lost the meaning of Easter, especially the young people," Mrs. Scott said. "We need to get back with our young people and teach them the real meaning of Easter. I've tried to do that with my family."

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