I remember the 30 pieces of silver, 30 dimes in my case, placed on the altar on the Ash Wednesday prior to Easter. A contribution of remembrance for Judah’s betrayal, we all add our piece to the pot. I remember white dresses and clip on bow ties, the Easter service where we praise Jesus’ sacrifice and resurrection – the brevity of death overshadowed by his miraculous rebirth – then an exodus to our homes where we ate Easter dinner with our families. Our bellies already full of gelatinous candy, teeth gritty from the sugar.
It was the first family holiday I stopped coming to. My relationship to G-d having taken an impasse, there was something hypocritical about going home to participate in a bogus act of faith. The most innocuous act of rebellion I could muster against my family and G-d, relief of not forcing myself through another church service outweighed the arguments that would ensue my absence. The most innocuous holiday and I still cannot participate.
Its 4am Easter Sunday and I prepare a holiday feast at my job for the clients. It’s not in my job description, but somehow I have found myself the go-to-gyrl for special dinner feasts. Notes stick to my mail box, ‘GoGo, can you make your yam dish’ or ‘No one knows how to stuff a Turkey, would you be so kind?’ I enjoy this role, I won’t lie. It’s probably the only way I know how to participate in holidays anymore by preparing food to celebrate.
I feel encapsulated by solitude on Easter and solitude has always come easier to me then the discomfort of participation. Even as I remember the Easter Sundays of my childhood – the joy that came with finding the Easter bunnies surprise or getting to read the scriptures for the congregation – I feel relief that I have no service I am obliged to attend tomorrow. I do not have to sit through the family feast.
My thoughts linger on a passage that Paul Auster once wrote about his father in The Invention of Solitude. A man who seemed to only skim the surface of life, Auster described his father solitary experience as…
“Solitary. But not in the sense of being alone. Not solitary in the way Thoreau was, for example, exiling himself in order to find out where he was; not solitary in the way Jonah was, praying for deliverance in the belly of the whale. Solitary in the sense of retreat. In the sense of not having to see himself, of not having to see himself being seen by anyone else” The Invention of Solitude ~ Paul Auster.
I listen to friends discuss that discomfort of “going home” and scratching their collars as they sit through that family obligation of Church then dinner and I find myself feeling like those isolated hermits who never really participated in the life they lived. This avoidance of discomfort scares me a little. It’s so easy for me just not to be there. And what was once an empowering act of self-identity quivers at the periphery of my understanding. A dim shadow of doubt forms and when I try to place my gaze directly at what gives me pause, it disappears all together. I choose solitude over discomfort and lately that’s becoming a chilling experience.