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Nora Swango Stanger: Memories of Easter parades

When I was a little girl attending Waterloo Elementary, we had special programs throughout the year celebrating every holiday you can imagine.

This time of year, it was the Easter program that excited all the children. Every year, Mrs. White and Mrs. Spears would take time out of class to march us to the small stage that overlooked our gym.

We would painstakingly practice reciting our memory pieces that spelled out E-A-S-T-E-R and rehearse short skits.

I remember Cathy Neal and I were in one of the skits together. We were to pretend to be feeding ducks. I thought I would die of anxiety as Cathy struggled to untie the pretty handkerchief that held our piece of bread. We then ripped apart the bread and tossed at imaginary birds.

Funny how such a slight moment of life can be seared into your memory.

The highlight of the Easter program was the Easter Parade. Our teachers selected boys and girls, in sets of two, to walk down the center aisle between the folding chairs that held the parents and other guests.

The children would start at the back, entering the gym out of the locker rooms from opposite sides. They would meet in the middle and walk up the aisles as the song played “In my Easter bonnet, with all the frills upon it…”

I couldn’t be in the Easter Parade, because only little girls with Easter bonnets were selected. My mom could never afford such a thing, so each year I watched, just wishing that I was one walking with my white-gloved hand, holding on to one of the boy’s arms as the adults watched, beaming with pride.

Mom allowed us to color eggs with food dye. If I think hard enough with my minds’ eye, I can remember the tenacious work as we tried to make designs with wax from crayons and the strong smell of vinegar filling the room.

Afterwards, our fingers would be discolored and we’d laugh at the stains. Granny took extra boiled eggs to make pickled eggs with vinegar and beet juice. It was extremely difficult to wait the three days she required before we could eat this delicacy. Not until I started making pickled eggs for my own children did I realize how Granny had to watch the egg jar with hawk eyes to makes sure we had some for Easter dinner.

I remember hunting eggs in the yard and screaming when I had found one. Mom made some eggs easy to find and made a rule that only the babies of the family were allowed to pick up those. Once we even hid eggs in the snow — which was no challenge at all. And weeks later, our dog would come to the door with a lost egg in his mouth.

I think my favorite Easter memory occurred when I was an adult. My husband and I were visiting Mom for the weekend. My first child was only a few months old. I remember waking early, dressing quickly and driving the winding 93 highway to the old abandoned tunnel, just outside Ironton that used to house old State Route 75.

Several of us walked through the cold steep woods and entered the dark tunnel. There, we gathered with brothers and sisters of faith on Easter morning.

I held my baby girl, dressed in the white hand-crocheted sweater and bonnet Mom had made. I remember my husband standing close behind me with his arm around me as we sang a capella hymns of praise to the rising sun.

Our voices were weak at first and the darkness was a bit overwhelming. Then, the light of the sun began to shine — even into the dark cave-like surroundings. It seemed as though all creation was reminding us, “He is risen!” This was one of the most holy moments I have known.

As spring transcends into summer and then into other seasons, I hope I never forget the sweetness and power of such memories.

I strive to continue to make more memories that hopefully will outlast the decades to come.