Ham and hallelujahs

My mom knew how to make holidays special. Though she tired of being the holiday magician, it was a way to hold her family together and pass on the traditions she had internalized.

These traditions, even the ones that didn’t matter to me, often seemed to revolve around food I didn’t particularly enjoy. Ham and (gag!) aspic at Easter. Potato salad and corn on the cob at the 4th of July (not a fan of either). Clam chowder and Oyster stew on Christmas Eve (allergic to tomatoes and oysters). Of course I was supportive of the desserts..easter meal

But food really was a part of what created an event. So even though I didn’t like some of the foods, I expected them, waited for them, anticipated them. And like a drooling sharpe dog, I would sit at the table – waiting. And then after a bite or two remember “Oh yeah. I didn’t really like ham.” And mayonnaise is only good in very small doses. (Of course I remembered that aspic made me puke.) But it was important to mom – and so it was important to me. I remember asking her one Easter when I came of age if we could have a vegetarian option to which she responded, “Well, there will be a green salad.” Go farm mom!

I always think of my mom around holidays. Every Easter morning, whether she felt like it or not, she would burst into “Christ the Lord is risen today, Allelujah”, prancing around half-dressed in “nylons” with slippers and bathrobe; coffee pot and cigarette smoke swirling through the kitchen with her. She knew how to engage her kids in the things that mattered to her.

These are great memories that weave in between the more painful ones, and help soothe the loss of her. She wasn’t perfect. She grew to be a really bad alcoholic and so wasn’t particularly predictable. She had a hard time admitting her deepest feelings – at least to me – except when she was under the influence. You can imagine that, as a child, that made me a bit unsure. When I became an adult and confronted this, she and dad told me I was too sensitive. Well yes, that is true. I was the only one of my sibs who knew by high school that there was a problem. So, I suppose that means I am high on the sensitive scale. But there were plenty of people with drinking problems in my parent’s circle of friends – so it was easy for her to deflect the issue onto them. But they were fantastic friends.

Christ is risen cornflowerTomorrow is Easter. As for me, I will not be joining the throngs of church goers. For Lent this year, I gave up Lent. No maudlin reflections on self sacrifice (heaven knows I have done enough of that in my life). No glorification of misery, which Jesus certainly went through. No ashes. No holy week. Not even any Easter. Part of it is that my family has shifted significantly in the past years and it simply does not feel good to be in a space where everyone is with their families. I would like to be with mine – but this is not possible.

It is not that anything has changed inside really. I am still the same doubter/believer I have always been. It will be a regular day off for me. No ham. No marshmallow peeps. No family dinner. However, I will fire up the coffee pot, dance around the kitchen belting out a rousing verse of “Christ the Lord is risen today” and be thankful for the amazing woman who birthed me. Christ the Lord is risen today


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3 Responses to Ham and hallelujahs

  1. jaytrock says:

    And I, and many others, will be thankful for the amazing woman you have become! Christ is Risen indeed.

  2. Kelly says:

    Happy Birthday, Mom.
    Well said, Shan.

  3. Aileen: I understand every word you wrote. My family has also changed significantly in the past 4 years. I will not be in church either. I will, however, eat lobster with a friend. Can’t believe you don’t like corn on the cob or potato salad. I use your mom’s recipe for potato salad. Love it. I didn’t know you were a vegetarian. Anyway, Christ will rise again and we will be OK. Love ya, Cuz.

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