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Gentle duties

Apr 8, 2012 - By Steven R. Peck

Editor's note: A version of this Easter editorial was published most recently in 2006.

Ask a grown-up to recall a favorite childhood holiday. Chances are, the answer will be Easter.

Particularly in northern states, the ones with real winter, Easter sparks memories of newly sunny days, of greening grass, of running on a lawn, of pinwheels catching the spring breeze, of happy hunting for something sweet.

And all of it, finally, without a coat on.

It's the time of chick and bunny, the steamy smell of boiling eggs, and of the rainbow they make on a plate or in a glass bowl after little hands have tinted them.

Families have their Easter traditions. Yours may be a special pancake breakfast after church, or a yellow sundress worn once a year. It might be family portrait time, while everyone is dressed up. It might be a favorite hymn or moving piece of scripture, shining up the golf clubs or a salty ham and slice of lemon pie.

One family we know always made an outdoor game of basketball part of Easter, breathing hard, laughing, sweating a little in the spring sun, stopping for the season's first drink from the garden hose, then playing one more.

Others we know bring out a set of spoon-sized wooden paddles, narrow on one end and wide on the other, whittled by a grandfather decades before. Each year they are used to turn the eggs in their baths of vinegary dye. The ends of the paddles are stained from three generations of Easter egg coloring.

Most of the grandchildren never knew the man who put the blade to the soft pine, and none of the great-grandchildren ever laid eyes on him. But they can hold them, just as he once handled them, these things he made. For Easter.

This Easter week is a bit earlier than usual. The full moon that dictates Easter's spot on the calendar arrived in April's first month. It's been a mild spring, and the crocuses are pushing through the soil. The tulips and daffodils are getting ready to pop. That's part of the promise of a holiday about the celebration of life.

In our times it's become a cliche to preface remarks with the words "Now, more than ever..." as in "Now, more than ever, it's important to consider the meaning of Easter." The phrase might hold more moment if it weren't so overused these days in absurd ways such as "Now, more than ever, it's important to find a good dandruff shampoo."

Let's none of us be so arrogant as to assume that our times are more important than those that have come before us or will follow us. But they are our times, the only times we can be sure we'll have, the times that we are responsible for, the times in which we live.

And they are important to us -- perhaps not "now, more than ever," but important all the same.

No, this won't be the moment we turn to a religious message. Incalculable numbers of words have been written over the centuries, addressing the religious significance Easter holds for hundreds of millions of people on our planet. There's little chance that anything written today, in this space, by one writer, could add much of significance to that compendium of work.

Instead, we'll simply suggest that you find the bicycle pump and air up that basketball, especially if it's been awhile since you last did.

This Easter, keep mixing that pancake batter, or boiling those eggs. Put the old wooden paddles into new human hands. Slice that ham, sing that hymn, re-read the meaningful passage. Savor everything, including the pie.

This Easter, step into the sun, or make a track in the mud, and celebrate the living of life while we have it, that unique condition of humanity that we not only can recognize, but can cherish, such as the gentle duty of placing a colored egg in a hiding place, and helping a child to find it.

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