The Easter Bunny, Oyster Soup and Walking into Town with Jesus
I was in first grade when my mom and dad divorced. When Mom talked about her D-I-V-O-R-C-E I thought it was a dirty word she had to spell. We lived with my main Grandma then, known only as Grandma, and slept upstairs in the cold north room. Mom wasn’t around much and Dad would call her on Friday nights from a tavern after he got drunk so they could continue their date for fighting over the phone.
He picked us up every other weekend in his green Studebaker with a hole in the floor so big I watched the road go by under my feet. We went to our other Grandma’s apartment, his mom Grandma Maudie. She lived on the top floor of a three story building. The porch jutted straight out from her living room and I knew it would fall right onto the sidewalk if I ever stepped out on it, so of course I never did. He bought us bubble gum from a machine before we climbed all of her stairs and released us to his mom when she opened the big door, then without even a goodbye he became an echo of footsteps. Grandma Maudie adored us. We had cookies and Ovaltine for breakfast. We set up shop and played store at her apartment by the glass doors to the scary porch. I was the store keeper and my little sister the shopper. I laugh now, destined to be a Trader Joe’s Crew Member as a little tyke and my sister a champion shopper, and I assume she still is.
All the rest of the time we spent with our main Grandma. We played store at her house too with her canned goods in the corner of the kitchen. On Sundays it was Sunday school where Jesus became my best friend, mostly my only friend and I sang his song to myself on the long walk to school, and on the playground at recess where I was the only kid at the time who lived with a Grandma. He used to swing with me in her backyard and I shared my orange Popsicle with him. Yes, Jesus loved me. I didn’t miss him on Grandma Maudie’s Sunday because he was always with me, the unseen friend trying to convince me that the divorce wasn’t really my fault.
Easter weekend rolls around, we’ve already survived, just barely, the Tony Home Permanent Grandma Maudie sent us home with, surprise Mom. Christmas day evening when we were sent back with three trips to the car for presents all too expensive, all with the price tags still on, all outshining the homemade ones from our main Grandma. The next charge in the battle of I’m a better Grandma than you are.
It’s Saturday night Grandma Maudie is boiling eggs in the kitchen so we can color them later when they’re cool. It is dark already and Grandpa Joe who reminds me so much of the Lone Ranger’s trusty friend Tonto he becomes Tonto in my memory. He’s been drinking all day, that isn’t unusual for him. He never says much, smokes a lot and goes to bed early. He wants oyster soup, so she sets up a TV tray in front of him at his overstuffed chair in the living room.
We are in the corner at the nick knack shop. The shopper is examining a set of cedar salt and pepper shakers in the shape of an outhouse, main Grandma has a set just like them. The soup bowl is placed before Tonto and it is not to his liking, too hot, too cold, not enough oyster crackers or some other Goldilocks thing. He begins yelling. She rushes back to quiet him so he doesn’t scare us. Now she’s yelling. He grabs her arm and they could be Mom and Dad slapping each other. He knocks the TV tray across the room so hard soup splatters on the tile floor in the little bathroom. Before he is out of the chair she locks herself in the bedroom. He pounds on the door. In an eye blink there is more pounding, on the front door now. He staggers to it, opens it and my dad flies in like Superman, his hands around Grandpa’s neck. They are brawling, spitting, swearing in the little hallway, they become Mom and Dad in our living room last summer, screaming, trying to strangle each other, breaking the table lamp, and rolling around on the floor with the empty beer cans. Dad and Grandpa are on their feet again, they break the big hallway mirror, tumble out the front door and down the first flight of stairs.
Grandma is screaming. We are huddled in the corner. We’ve seen this movie before and once again Jesus is there whispering stay still help is coming, and I hear sirens below. We are collected by a Policeman. He carries one of us in each arm like the real Superman. We pass my crying Grandma Maudie, she doesn’t look up. She doesn’t say goodbye. She is sweeping up the broken mirror into a metal dustpan.
We sit on his lap in the Police car driving slow in the dark back to Grandma’s house. We are almost there, only a block away now I see the neon sign from the Hi-Lo Bar and the car stops in the middle of the empty road. Look, the other Policeman says as he shines the spotlight out in front, there goes the Easter Bunny, and the light follows a bunny all the way across the road. I’ll bet he’s already been to your house, he says, and so he was.
A week ago on Palm Sunday my Basset Hound Phoebe passed gently on after a long illness. I’m sure she went to walk into town with Jesus, and knowing her they stopped for lunch and she seriously went about convincing him to go the Bridge with her instead while they shared an orange Popsicle for dessert. She can be very convincing.