Two years ago, my little grandson came over for an Easter egg hunt. As a first-time granny, I was full of enthusiasm; planting the eggs in the shrubbery and behind flowers, allowing the shiny paper to glint in the sun so that he could find them easily and place them in the little bucket I had bought.
His parents were amused with my high expectations of an 18-month-old toddler. True to form, he had no interest in putting eggs in the bucket – he either bit straight into them or stuffed them in the dog’s mouth.
I was so looking forward to Easter 2020 as he had advanced greatly in the intervening year and I knew he’d easily understand how to search for eggs.
Even though mass vaccination is on the horizon, I am inordinately sad
However, COVID-19 put paid to my plans. The decision made in those early days of the first lockdown was to leave an egg on his doorstep for him and make a WhatsApp call later.
In the grand scheme of things, it was a small price to pay to keep everyone safe. Little did I imagine that, a year on, the scenario would not have changed.
Even though mass vaccination is on the horizon, I am inordinately sad. Like so many children, he has had to learn so many rules; some like hand-washing and good sneezing etiquette are very beneficial but my heart breaks when he stops dead as he hurtles towards my back door.
“Micheál Martin says I can’t come in, Granny,” he utters in a matter of fact manner.
I will have to watch him at a careful distance and refrain from scooping him up for a kiss or wiping his chocolate-stained lips
I wonder how his mind is processing all this strange information and I hope he is not storing it in his long-term memory.
Life for him should be full of rough and tumble, alongside hugs and storytelling with grandparents. However, when he arrives on Easter Sunday morning this year to feed sheep with his daddy, I will have to watch him at a careful distance and refrain from scooping him up for a kiss or wiping his chocolate-stained lips.
Perhaps I’ll clean the trailer on his long-abandoned toy tractor and leave an Easter egg sitting on it.
I had wished, by this stage, he would be kneeling on a chair beside me at the kitchen counter; covered in butter and flour as I baked. The best I could offer last week was a muffin left on a low window sill and just watch him munch it contentedly while sitting on the lawn. I feel older than I am, weighed down with restrictions and fear.
I have nothing to complain about though when I think of the heroic efforts being made by frontline staff in the face of the COVID-19 virus and I know there are many children out there who won’t have a grandparent to visit when the pandemic is over. My family are well thus far, we have plenty of home cooked food and space to stroll around in. I coax my mind onto a more positive platform and reflect on past events at Easter time.
The joy of new life – of promise for the future – is always welcome
Immediately, I remember one of my sons’ christenings at the Holy Saturday night service some thirty years ago. As we arrived at the church, the Paschal Fire at the door was smoking in the bitter wind. I wondered at the wisdom of bringing a young baby past the sparks and whether the smell of burnt wood would linger on his christening robe; a treasured family heirloom. The smiles of the congregation as we walked up the aisle soon helped me forget my worries.
The joy of new life – of promise for the future – is always welcome.
I saw some old ladies I knew beam down from the gallery at my little boy. For many years afterwards, they would pat his curly hair whenever we met in the local supermarket.
“Is this the lad who was baptised before Easter?”
“Yes, indeed,” I’d nod proudly.
“He’s a fine chap now,” they’d smile.
We had a small celebration after the ceremony that particular night, presenting a cake to my mother-in-law whose birthday occurred the following day. Three generations; marking a special occasion.
Things can go bad at Easter
When I was a child, I used to love looking at the ribbons other girls would have in their hair on Easter Sunday morning. To my annoyance, my unruly head of curls was never conducive to adornment.
However, one year my aunt (who was a children’s nurse in London and working for a wealthy family) brought home dresses that her charges had outgrown. I can remember a smocked lemon dress that fitted me perfectly – its rich fabric so beautiful that I refused all chocolate that day in case I would get a stain on it.
My children never resisted temptation when they saw Easter eggs lined up on the table. I used to plead with them not to start munching, at least until Mass was over.
They very quickly invented ways to smooth and shape the glittery foil back into place so it appeared as if the box was undisturbed. I recall driving one of my schemers to the church so that my husband could do the milking and attend a later ceremony.
One glance at his ashen face informed me that he was indeed telling the truth
I almost crashed the car on the way when a rabbit ran across the country road and my little man screamed “Mind the Easter Bunny!” into my ear.
We were no sooner inside the chapel when he tugged at my sleeve.
“I feel sick, Mammy, very sick.”
One glance at his ashen face informed me that he was indeed telling the truth. I grabbed him and headed for the back door where an understanding man opened it wide to rush us outside.
My reverie is broken by the sight of ewes and their new born lambs being let out into the paddock beside our house. As their hooves touch fresh grass for the first time, the lambs become airborne and prance about in delight. I share their optimism and look forward also to a different environment.
It will not happen this Easter for us – but we can make a fragile wish that with our renewed sense of community in the face of adversity, a new day will dawn. I tell myself that recent events have perhaps made us all grow up – not necessarily grow old.
I’ll try to remember this when restrictions ease and my grandson is eventually allowed to visit.