Easter Lesson.

When I was about 11 or 12, my mother declared she would not be cooking Easter dinner and we officially had no plans.  In an attempt to avoid the prior year’s Easter dinner at Burger King, I decided that I would cook the Easter meal.  It was to be a feast fit for 5 – my brother and mother, my grandmother and grandfather, and myself.

Everyone agreed that it was a lovely idea.

I spent the entire day before Easter crafting our after dinner entertainment:  An Easter themed board game.  I drew the board.  I crafted the markers that would travel around the spaces.  I created cards with trivia, all of which was carefully researched inside the many volumes of The World Book of Knowledge that graced our dining room bookshelf.  I wrote up the rules so as to avoid any accusations that I was making them up on the spot for my own personal gain.

I pulled out my book of children’s crafts to fashion place mats, napkin rings and name plates.  I put far too much thought into the seating arrangement.  I used construction paper and markers to write a menu for my guests to view prior to our meal.

And, oh, what a menu it was!  A canned ham, delicately scored with whole cloves inserted at the intersections, complete with pineapple rings and maraschino cherries fastened with toothpicks.  I saw this in a cookbook, so I knew it was the proper way to cook a ham.  Mashed potatoes topped with McCormick’s pork flavored gravy.  Not one, but two cans of green beans.  I even got my mother to buy the rolls in a can that I loved so much.

My mother helped, but not too much, because I insisted I was cooking this dinner and I did not need help.  It was to be my first official dinner party and I wanted to do it all on my own.

As dinner time approached, my grandmother called to say she wasn’t coming.  She had hurt her knee and was going to stay home.  But my grandfather was still coming and he was on his way.

When Grandpa arrived, I eagerly showed him the menu.  He looked it over carefully.  Since he was a cartoonist and experienced calligrapher, he gave me some notes on what I could have done to make the poster nicer.

We finally sat down to eat.  I explained that I had made a fun game for us to play after dinner.  I was so excited.  Why weren’t they?  Did a hand-drawn, fairly complicated Easter trivia game not sound fun?

Halfway through the meal, we heard sirens and saw flashing lights. A fire truck was headed up our small, dead-end street. Concerned for our neighbors and perhaps with a touch of nosey-ness, we jumped from the table to see what was going on.  It turned out that there was a small fire in the empty lot that butted up against our street.  No big deal, things were under control.

“Come on, you guys.  Dinner is getting cold.  And we have to play our game!” I was still so excited.

That’s when my grandfather spied the rusty frame that used to be our swing set.  That swing set, in its hay-day, provided hours and hours of amusement for my brother and I and our friends from the neighborhood.  It was typical of those you would see in the late 70s:  Two plastic swings held on by metal chains, a metal slide and the 2-seater thing we would call “the bus.”  It started out red and white, now it was peeling and rusty.  The swings and the bus were gone.  The slide was dented and bent.  But that contraption, cemented into the dirt by my father a decade or so earlier, was still standing.

This swing set had been in this dilapidated state for years.  Why it became such a focus of his consternation on this particular afternoon still befuddles me to this day.  Grandpa went into the garage and found a shovel.  He set about digging that thing out of the ground and taking it apart.

I went inside.  I finished my dinner.  We cleaned up our plates, and made a plate to send home to Grandma.  We packed up the leftovers for tomorrow’s dinner.

When my grandfather completed his deconstruction mission, he was a sweaty, dirty mess.  The swing set was out to the curb for heavy trash pick up later that week.

“Welp, that’s done.  Is this for your grandma?” he asked me, pointing to the plate on the kitchen counter while blotting his face with a paper towel.
“Yes.”
“Alright.  I’m going to get going.  I need to clean up.  It’s hotter than you think out there today.”

He said goodbye to all of us and he left.  I picked up my game and threw it into the garbage on top of all of the food scraps from his half eaten dinner.

My mother later asked me why I was so upset.  I’m sure I cried and ranted about feeling unloved and dismissed.  She told me the food was good, everyone thought so.  She said she appreciated what I did.  “You know how your grandfather is.”  Despite knowing how he was, I was hurt and I wasn’t done being hurt.  So my mother told me to give it a rest and go watch TV.  She was done comforting me.

So what’s the lesson?  It’s this:  Eat the mediocre dinner.  Play the stupid game.  Show up for the meal, limping if you have to.  Don’t dig outdoor play equipment out of the ground when there’s a tween sitting inside who just wants to impress you.  Pretend you’re impressed, even if your not.  Because nearly 25 years later, every year at Easter, even if it’s just for a moment, she’s still going to remember that either you weren’t there or you weren’t impressed.

I’m linking up again with Yeah Write.

~~~

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72 Responses to “Easter Lesson.”

  1. Aw, I’m so sorry your grandfather didn’t appreciate your efforts. But at least your parents did, right?

  2. My belly actually hurts after reading this. I think adults get into their own world and look past children and can’t really see them. So sorry that the adults were all so disappointing that Easter. You did a great job retelling the story in a way that built suspense and interest. Nice piece, Erin

    • Aww, I didn’t mean to cause you pain! It’s ok. As an adult with a child of my own, I get it. And I DO know how my grandfather was so it’s so typically HIM – not means-spirited, just doing his thing. At the time though, that’s another matter. Thanks for the kind words.

  3. MamaMash says:

    You tell a story very well. I was extremely frustrated at the end. I know that sometimes I’m guilty of telling my nephews “later,” but I also know that they’re forgiving and we do a lot of stuff together, even with the “laters.”

    A hard lesson in life to learn so early is that sometimes, you might be the only one to appreciate something. But it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it. You should be proud of the initiative you took, how you planned it, and how it turned out.

    • Despite having had this happen, I still tell my kid “Just a minute” all the time and I need to stop. So true about not looking for validation outside of oneself. I did learn the hard way (though I often still forget) that if you wait for people to tell you that you did a good job, you’ll often be waiting a really long time.

      Thanks for the kind words!

  4. Jade says:

    Yes, this is fantastic. I feel both entertained at your efforts and extremely hurt on your behalf. That last line is just perfect. Thanks for sharing this. I really enjoyed reading it.

  5. Great story! I’m so guilty of this sometimes, telling my kids “yes, that’s great but mommy needs to finish laundry” when it would be much better for them to have a little more attention and a little less clean clothing.

    • Kids don’t get that they are not the center of the universe and it’s a hard lesson for them to learn. I try to kindly remind my son that I have things to do besides dote on him all day (though I wish I didn’t) but sometimes I need to be reminded too that other stuff can wait. I need to be mindful of my own kid’s feelings more often.

  6. Aubrey Anne says:

    This is such an important reminder! I was the kid who created elaborate things and was disappointed when no one thought it was amazing. But I’m also the mom who says, “I’m busy, go play with your brother”…

    • Yup – it’s a tough one, isn’t it? My parents were very distracted – they had so much grown up stuff going on that they often couldn’t stop to see what we did. And since I was the kind of kid who needed that, it was even worse. It’s ok now though. I’m mostly normal 😉

  7. christina says:

    i just wanna hug you right now.
    god i hated being a kid (teen/pre-teen). my family (parents, grandparents, etc) sucked at showing any kind of anything that didn’t pertain to them and their own “adult” issues.

    • When I look back, I get why and how it all happened, but at the time, I wish there was someone who could have explained it all to me. Thanks for reading, and for the hug!

  8. Robbie K says:

    That stinks…it’s hard to let go of disappointment that you felt at such a young age.

  9. Kim says:

    I can’t believe how much effort you put into that holiday! I can barely manage something like that now and I’m in my 30s! I”m amazed you didn’t get due credit and appreciation for it and I know that must have smarted like crazy. Great moral at the end though. Good reminder for all of us!!

  10. “Since he was a cartoonist and experienced calligrapher, he gave me some notes on what I could have done to make the poster nicer.” < --This. As a child of a creative/eccentric person, I have been there and it hurts. Everything you describe was dead-on. I’m so sorry you had that experience. You are right. Little things like showing up and eating the dinner make all the different. Thank you for sharing this.

    • He was so good at what he did too – he really was a great Grandpa, but he had his moments (don’t we all). But sometimes I just wanted a “good job!” instead of constructive criticism. That wasn’t his way though. :)
      Thanks for reading!

  11. Stacey says:

    My heart hurts for your preteen self. Lots of hugs.

  12. Julia says:

    Aww, I’m so sorry that happened! It’s so true that those little things can matter so much.

  13. KimP says:

    I get it, only not as the child but as the mother. When I ask Noah if he wants to play a game or walk to Walgreen’s his face lights up and I realize he just wants to BE with me, interacting with me. Not dinner or watching TV but actually having a back and forth. Puzzles, Target, picking up fast-food, he loves it. He loves just genuinely spending time with me. It’s not always easy to make the effort to put him first, admittedly, but in the end it’s ALWAYS ALWAYS worth it.

    I’m sorry your mom missed out on that knowledge.

    ~The G is Silent

    • I see it in my son too sometimes. He’ll ask if he can watch me do something or help me with something that I really just want DONE without little “helper” hands. But when I can, I try to let him because I know he just wants to be with me. And I love that he’s like that and I know someday he’ll just want me to go away. Always worth it to make the time.

      Thanks for reading and understanding :)

  14. to be present. to be loved. these things go a long, long way. A hard lesson, but one your children will benefit from your experience on. Great emotions here.

  15. Ugh, this just makes me angry. I’m so sorry for that child, so sorry that someone didn’t grab you up and let you know just how appreciated you were. Because a child that does all of that, that does anything and everything just to make her family happy deserves a little appreciation. Shame on them.

  16. Gia says:

    Aww, how sad. I hate it when adults are thoughtless – they can really hurt kids. :(

  17. Delilah Love says:

    I read this with a knot in my stomach and a heavy heart because I know that I am guilty of this sometimes with my kids. It is so easy to get caught up in the day to day stuff and forget to take the time to pay attention to the little things that my kids are showing me. Thank you for this piece, I mean that sincerely. Thank you.

    • I do it to mine too. We all do. It’s hard not to. I’m sure there were plenty of times I was told to go plan and I never noticed or cared. And I’m sure our kids all, for the most part, don’t get too hurt when we tell them just a minute.
      Thanks for reading :)

  18. Kimberly says:

    Sometimes it is so hard to let go of the disappointment that you felt so young. I have felt that and I am still dealing with it today.

  19. NV says:

    My dad just like your grandpa. After years of living in Canada I decided to go over for x-mas. I, wanted to do something nice for x-mas dinner and exclude all the traditional food from back home. I picked up ham (not from a can, ahem!), mashed potatoes, spaghetti, carrots. He arrived after hours of me being in the kitchen and decided my food was …strange. A little upset too. So he went and bought two roasted chickens and eat them with beans.

    Seriously? … I have since decided to NOT be like him when it comes to SUCKING.

    http://www.mamaandthecity.com

    • Canned ham is the worst. I’d say that was the reason they didn’t eat, but that’s all we ever had so I know that wasn’t it!! I’d have been bent about the chickens too :)
      Thanks for reading!

  20. Bridget says:

    People are hard to handle, all of them – especially once they’ve grown old and set in their ways. Try to forgive him, you’ll be much happier if you do.

    • Yes, people are hard to handle. I’ve forgiven and accepted my parents and grandparents for who they are. I truly have. It’s hard to forget though – and this one, because it has an anchor in a holiday that’s hard to miss, is particularly difficult to forget. It doesn’t have the pain it used to, but it does still have the sting.

  21. jamieywrites says:

    I have to say, this story is so well told. I feel you, Michelle. Nonetheless, it’s a reminder for myself to not shelf anything that I can do now for later. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

  22. Tricia says:

    Oh my goodness I feel so much for 11 year old you. When adults forget what an important role they play for the little ones in their lives, it breaks my heart. I hope your Easter this year was much better.

    • It was. Nice and quiet :) thank you! I like the way you say “what an important role they play.” I really don’t always think of it as me playing a role for my son, I think of the role he plays for me. I appreciate the perspective. Thanks for reading.

  23. Janice says:

    I wish I could have certain members of my family read this, although I feel like it’s probably about twenty five years too late. It’s a good lesson, though, and although I think I do pretty good with my kids, I still get irritated when I’m busy and they want me to do something. Thanks for this!

    • I am sure if I told my family that this story sticks with me they’d think I was insane. Sometimes people just don’t understand the impact of the things they do. Thanks for reading!

  24. Stephanie says:

    This made me so sad. I was kind of hoping for things to turn around at the end…but sadly, this is reality, not fiction. Your advice is good…we should all do what we can to make a child feel important.

    • I think what bugs me most about the story is that it wasn’t one of those easy to miss, every day sort of things. If they thought for a minute that I wasn’t going to want some praise over my initiative, they clearly didn’t know me at all. I mean, you can’t miss a kid cooking dinner and making a board game! :)
      Thanks for reading!

  25. Well damn. That is really sad.

    I used to put on magic shows for my family. But by the time I dragged them all downstairs to watch it, I always felt like they didn’t want to be there and just rushed through it so that they could go on their merry way.

    So yea, I feel your pain. And I’m sorry it still hurts.

    • I used to do magic shows too! I had the Fisher-Price kit. That thing was fun. Except for the people I made sit through the tricks! I’m sorry no one wanted to watch your show too.

      thanks for reading!

  26. this breaks my heart. it reminds me that as adults it’s our responsibility to protect the children we love. pretend to be impressed – they should have BEEN impressed. i am!

    • Thank you for being impressed. And yes, pretend if you have to! Kids just want the adults in their lives to approve of them and think they are special. I don’t think that’s so hard or too much to ask.
      Thanks for reading!

  27. Awww … I’m so sorry! :(

  28. This may sound harsh but this is a case of pearls before swine. What a clueless bunch of adults. a good reminder though.

  29. What a great post. I love it because it speaks to memory. It speaks to the idea to be ever so careful what you do today as the consequences continue. It works both ways. If you knew someone in their 20’s that you loved in your memory they will always be that wonderful 20 year old, even if they’re someone entirely different in their 40’s. I have a memory of my college years – of my parents – I won’t bore you with it, but it will never go away. This resonated with me as I’ve been reading a lot about memory. Cheers!

    • It’s true what you say. Memory is funny that way. I have memories too – maybe they are out of character for a person and I know they “aren’t really like that” but the truth is for that moment they were, and that’s what is remembered. Thanks for stopping by.

  30. Heidi says:

    Okay, your dinner should have been gushed about – some serious hooting and hollering should have happened over all that you put together. My gosh! If my kid does anything like this ever I’ll be over the moon. I’m so sorry you and your work were so sorely neglected.
    This is a great reminder to me to be in the moment for my kids and truly appreciate what they do.

    • Thank you, Heidi. It just occurred to me that if they hadn’t shown such a gross display of indifference towards it, would I remember at all that I did it? Hmmm… Thanks for reading!

  31. Fi says:

    As adults do we ever stop to consider that children have feelings just like us – not usually. A nicely written reminder for all of us

    • Thank you. I know I get so caught up in trying to make sure my son, who is 5, is aware of the feelings of others. Let’s face, it, 5 year olds are pretty self-centered. But he does have feelings too. And hurting them is no joke. Thanks for reading!

  32. Lance says:

    I’ve ready this several times. I’m currently struggling with a childhood that has struck me in the face at age 41 as highly wrong, and damaged. My friends and familt marvel at how my wife and I talk to and listen to our three girls. I didnt have the same respect as a kid.

    easter is a huge family holiday on my side of the family. my wife and daughters didnt want to go this year because of simmering tensions and floating drama. we went. we ate the emal, hunted the eggs, faked the smiels then came home and loved on each other.

    thanks for sharing, michele

  33. DawnMarie38 says:

    Michelle…thanks for the reminder of how the mind of an innocent child works…in this crazy busy world we can sometimes forget! I constantly try to remind myself to take time to “smell the roses”. Children are very impressionable and remember everything…so let’s try to make them good memories! Again, thanks for sharing!!! Ps: I will gladly come over for canned ham and homemade games any day!!

  34. DawnMarie38 says:

    Michelle…thanks for the reminder of how the mind of an innocent child works…in this crazy busy world we can sometimes forget! I constantly try to remind myself to take time to “smell the roses”. Children are very impressionable and remember everything…so let’s try to make them good memories! Again, thanks for sharing!!! Ps: I will gladly come over for canned ham and homemade games any day!!

  35. Jennifer says:

    You’ve been given the ‘Liebster Blog Award!’ I’m serious! Go here for all the details :)

    http://jennyallywrites.blogspot.com/2012/04/and-oscar-goes-to.html

  36. I am quite perplexed over the swing set digging. And I agree with many of the prior comments regarding children, memories, and the quality of writing–I actually felt as if I was there because you described it so fittingly. In fact I wish I would have been there with you. It sounds like it was lovely.

    • What I didn’t mention, and should have, is that my grandparents lived 5 minutes from us. He used to WALK to my house! He was there all the time. There was no reason on Earth for him to do that at that time, other than when he got it in his mind to do something he did it, no matter what. Sometimes when I think of it, it’s actually hilarious because it’s so absurd.

      Thank you for your kind words and for reading. :)

  37. Shannon says:

    I would have played that game with you. I always loved coming over and playing your board games. I was always so jealous of all the cool games you had on that shelf in the dining room. I did love that swingset too. I remember jumping off that swing a few times……always making sure we didn’t hit any of the bricks that were there. As much as you and I fought I loved having you as my friend. Everytime Kayla or Jason play with their play kitchen I think of you. We need to get together soon. Maybe we can have a play date and have ham in a can with mustard.

    • Aww – thank you so much! Remember when Peto (how did you spell his name anyway?) went flying and slammed his head on the slate! That was nuts. I thought my mom was going to kill us! We should plan something. Message me and we will. I’d love to see you and the kids!!

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