Another holiday inspires revisiting family traditions

April 19, 2003|By JACQUES KELLY

HOLIDAYS, of any nature, did not slip past unobserved in my family's house. If there was a religious feast or a patriotic event, it received a hearty and enthusiastic observance.

And, on this Holy Saturday, I look over the small pile of Easter cards my brother and sisters have mailed me. I also think of the small list of chores I have been assigned for tomorrow's festivities. I am really looking forward to a packed house and what promises to be a riotous egg hunt.

In a family setting, there is nothing quite like an important day on the calendar to get things going. I think there was still snow on the ground when the telephone calls started coming regarding the negotiations for our Easter agenda.

On any big holiday, there is no escaping the ghosts of the past. I think back to the early springs of, say, 40 years ago. Holy Week invariably coincided with the greening of trees along Guilford Avenue and Charles Street. It was a lovely time in the old neighborhood, when the scene was fresh and light green.

I also think of the mad dash home after a rather involved Good Friday service at SS. Philip and James Church, where Monsignor John Duggan had done us all a favor by speeding the events up as much as possible.

Speaking of favors, I like to think of all the small remembrances encountered over this weekend. I think of my two grandmothers and their homemade buttercream eggs. One set of chocolate-coated eggs was made in South Baltimore on Poultney Street; the other set on Guilford Avenue. Each was delicious. What I recall is how the eggs traveled - back and forth as gifts, so each could enjoy the other's confections.

We didn't work for weeks in preparation for Easter, as we would at Christmas. But we were exhausted after hitting Belair, Lexington or Cross Street markets - maybe all three - for a buying sweep just before the big spring holiday. I used to love the frenzy surrounding Howard and Lexington streets, the whole urban jumble, on a typically humid, slightly gray Holy Saturday.

Just as the church bells had rung out the end of Lent earlier that day, another bell would ring on Saturday evening.

It was our next-door neighbors, the Hoopper family - father, mother and daughter - who had crossed our shared front lawns. They would be at our front door carrying six perfect Easter baskets for the six children in our household.

I think, given the noise our family must have created, we should have been giving a week's vacation at Saratoga Springs to the Hooppers. It's a low-key tradition like this that reminds you what a holiday is all about.

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