Easter Memories

Nancy Bryans

High school sweethearts married after the groom completed military service and graduated from law school. He accepted a position with a law firm in a college town located sixty miles from their parents’ homes in the city. The newlyweds rented a bungalow near his law office and college campus where she worked as librarian. Together, they celebrated holidays and special occasions with both sets of parents.

The husband busied himself with his law practice, and on weekends he enjoyed horse riding, fly fishing, duck hunting, and skeet shooting. His wife devoted her free time to charity work, bridge games, ladies lunches, and teas. The couple sat among fans at college sports events, and they were invited to parties and dances. During hunt season, they hosted hunt breakfasts as each hunt family took turns entertaining the group.

Sometime after his wife gave birth to their second child, they decided to purchase a home, but choices were limited in their college town. Then a refurbished, two-story home was put up for sale located on the outskirts of town. The charming five-bedroom home, with spacious rooms, fireplaces, and porches, sat on a corner lot.  The large yard wrapped around behind the home to a horse stable and double-car garage. Expecting a third child, they moved just before the Easter Bunny hid eggs in the bushes, tree branches, and horse barn for the vivacious little boys to collect after they returned from Easter services at church.

When the couple’s three boys were old enough, each child received a pony, then a horse, as a birthday gift. The boys joined a riding club with other hunt couples’ children, and the boys and girls, taught to ride English saddle, competed for prizes, winning ribbons and silver trophies. The couple’s eldest son, William, loved horses, won every prize offered, and people said it was sheer joy to observe his riding performance during competitions.

William was born on his mother’s birthday, Easter Sunday that year, and their birthdays almost always coincided with Easter ceremonies. People thought William’s happy nature, handsome looks, athletic physique, and scholarly grades concealed any resentment he might have felt at having to share his birthday with two other important family and religious celebrations. An overachiever, William excelled at everything he tried. He became a surgeon, husband, father and grandfather, beloved by his patients, wife, family and friends. He replaced his love of horse riding with his love of sailboats. As he aged and his family expanded, the size of his sailboats grew until he was no longer a single-handed sailor but relied on his crew.

A dutiful son, William celebrated his and his mother’s birthday and Easter together every year until she died at age ninety-nine. His next birthday did not fall in Easter week, and he told his family he and his wife would be away on his birthday. When they arrived on their yacht, he said to his wife: “This is a happy/sad day. It is the first time I will not celebrate my birthday with my dear mother or share the date with Easter commemorations.” They embraced each other as tears wet their faces. That night at dinner, a third chair sat at his birthday table, and he lifted his glass to toast his mother’s empty chair.

Several weeks later, William and his wife celebrated Easter with their sons, daughters-in-law, and grandchildren, who after church services ran helter skelter in the large wrap-around yard in search of Easter Bunny eggs hidden in the bushes, tree branches, and horse barn.