But mostly, it was the clothes.
My sister and I would wear matching dresses; my brother wore a suit. The dress always seemed to have smocking, and it would be so much prettier than any other dress we had. We’d wear a slip or an itchy underdress petticoat thingie. White tights, which my mom managed to get on us only by sticking our legs in, then grabbing the waistband and shaking us the rest of the way in. Even so, they were never pulled up high enough, causing my sister and me to waddle like little ducks.
Then came the gloves. Little white gloves that we’d never wear again. Still not sure why we had those, but they were part of the Easter package. White shoes with straps that buckled. I had to have uglier shoes than my sister, because I had problems with my feet, but even mine seemed so pretty.
Then, the hat. Again, itchy seemed to be required, but damn, we were cute. White plastic with an elastic band under the chin, a ribbon fluttering in the breeze.
And finally, the purse. Oh, the purse! A tiny little white straw confection with a clump of pastel flowers on it. Mom would put in a tissue and a quarter for the collection basket. My sis and I would spend mass opening and closing the purse, fascinated by the catch, because we were five and four, and we didn’t generally carry purses. The pressure of having that quarter ready would build throughout mass, and I’d always feel limp with relief when I got it in the basket.
After mass, we’d run down the hill with the other kids at our church, compare fancy clothes, and head to Nina and Pop-Pop’s, where, blissfully, we could take off our tights and run around like normal kids.
Pop-Pop would make leg of lamb with mint jelly, and he’d often fondly comment that I could eat like a horse. Some things never change. I might fall asleep on his lap after dinner; I adored that man.
We’d get home after the long car ride, our Irish setters overjoyed to see us after half a day apart. Taking off the dress was a relief by then, though it was sad to see it go away, knowing next year I’d be too big for it. We’d go to bed before it was fully dark, full of candy, tired and happy, and a little sad that the special day was over.