Last Saturday I sat at my mother-in-law's kitchen table between her and my brother-in-law, Charlie. Every Easter for at least the past 25 years my family has gone to Charlie and his wife Gabie for this holiday.
Here it was the day before Palm Sunday and nothing had been said about Easter. I didn't get an e-mail requesting my famous chocolate pudding pie. Jackie, my daughter didn't get a phone call asking if Skylar eats ham. Nobody sent up a smoke signal to say,
"We're telling you to come at 3:00, but this is Carol time...since you're always late."
I asked, "Hey, Charlie, what's going on for Easter?"
He pushed his hair back in a nervous gesture. I could tell it was a nervous gesture because his hair was already neatly slicked back. He stuttered something about their good dishes being packed away since they're in the process of selling their house. I didn't catch the last part because he drowned out the end of his sentence with a self concious sip of coffee.
Before I had a chance to respond, "That's fine, but when were you planning on telling me this? Easter morning?" a peculiar conversation began between Charlie and Fanny.
Charlie: "What did we do last year?"
Fanny: "You know, I don't remember."
Charlie: "Let me think...
Fanny: "I have such a good memory. Don't I have a good memory? I must be losing it."
I silently moved my head from Charlie to Fanny, from Fanny to Charlie following their words like the ball in a tennis match.
Finally, I blurted out,
"Well, let's see - if Easter last year was next week Jimmy was in the hospital. And, if it was the week after, he wasn't anymore."
You can imagine the embarrassed groans of "Oh, yeah" from the two of them, Jimmy's brother and mother.
I don't expect everyone to remember, although most of my friends, do. It's kind of like we all expect important events in our lives to hold the same importance to everyone.
So often when I ask my friend what she's wearing to some event she answers,
"I think I'll wear what I wore to Lori's party."
Does she really think I can picture what she was wearing? I don't even remember what I wore.
As I said, we haven't varied the holiday in twenty-five years, so I can't imagine why there would be any confusion, anyway. So much for extended families. The best definition I ever heard of family is:
"Family is doing things you don't want to do with people you don't want to do them
I mentioned to Doug that Aunt Gabie isn't having Easter this year fully expecting him to shrug and say "Let's skip it." Instead he said, "Then, you have it."
Oh. Okay. Yeah. I guess, I could do that. I love that he expects of me what I don't expect of myself. Last summer he saw a stack of bills I was going to bring to Jimmy's assistant to pay for me. (Rae used to pay all our bills even when Jimmy was alive) Doug said, "You can't pay your own bills?" Since then I have.
Doug is a great combination of a helpful, loyal son but he won't take over. He knows I'm capable and I rise to that. It's working.
Tomorrow we'll be twelve people around the table and one little three year old running around looking for hidden Easter eggs. Tradition continues in it's own new way.