In recognition of the season, here is an excerpt from Heirloom (Seed Savers, 3), in which Clare and Dante prepare for Easter with their host parents in Canada. Growing up in a place where real eggs were unknown, it’s their first experience coloring eggs.
It would soon be Easter, Clare’s favorite holiday. There had been a few years, when she was eight or nine, when her friends had almost convinced her otherwise, but all in all, she was an Easter devotee. She loved the season: spring, bursting with new life and warmer weather; she loved the plastic toy hunts in the malls and parks; and most of all, she loved the Holy Season, starting with Ash Wednesday and leading up to Easter Sunday.
This year, however, Clare anticipated it with mixed emotions. She looked forward to it because the Woods would finally take her and Dante to church—which she dearly missed, and because, of course, Easter was her favorite holiday. On the other hand, she experienced the sadness of yet another holiday without her mother. Though she was eager to celebrate the holiday in a new setting, she couldn’t help missing the rituals of her own family, church, and town.
Clare made a conscious decision to deal with the conflicting emotions in advance, trying to let go of the sadder ones during Lent, so she could enjoy Easter Sunday in perfect happiness.
Though she had suggested the Woods attend the Good Friday service, it had fallen on deaf ears. Sunday would have to do. They had attended Palm Sunday, and since the church was fifteen miles away, Clare didn’t want to seem ungrateful by repeatedly asking for more.
And now they were right on the edge of Easter, peering in. It was Saturday, and Clare and Dante were to color boiled chicken eggs. Somehow it hadn’t occurred to Marissa that the children had no knowledge of this tradition. So when she had started talking about “coloring eggs” and saving the best-looking ones from the hen house for Easter, she wasn’t expecting the blank looks and questions.
“Coloring eggs?” Dante had asked. “With crayons? What for? Won’t they break?”
She’d had to back up and fill in the details—boiled eggs, food dye, dipping, wax. Later on, Clare looked it up on the Monitor and showed Dante the pictures she had found.
She was amazed and delighted that her favorite holiday could get even better.
By nine a.m. Clare and Dante were dressed and in the kitchen, eager to decorate the eggs. Marissa said they could color three dozen eggs. Clare gently placed the first batch of eggs in the bottom of a large pot, covered them with water, and set them on the stove.
“How long until we can dye them?” she asked.
“I knew you would be in a hurry,” Marissa said. She reached for a bowl on the counter. “I boiled these last night.”
Clare and Dante squealed. “So we can color now?” asked Dante.
“First, we need to set up the table—cover it with paper, prepare the dyes … but yes, Sweetheart, we can get started soon. Jeanette is bringing over Cedric and Jonas in a few minutes. I thought it might be more fun for you to have other kids show you the ropes.” Cedric and Jonas were two of Marissa and John’s grandchildren. They were closer in age to Dante than to Clare and often visited the Woods.
“All right!” yelled Dante.
After the eggs were colored and the mess cleaned up, Clare continued to help Marissa prepare for the holiday. The boys ran around outside. Though early in April, the day was unseasonably warm and sunny.
“So we’re going to Cedric and Jonas’s house tomorrow?”
“Yes, dear. That’s one of the reasons Jeanette brought the boys over this morning. Keeps them out from under her feet.”
Clare smiled knowingly. “Will any of the other cousins be there?”
“Just J.M.’s kids.”
“That’s six all together,” Clare said.
“We’re taking apple pies and homemade egg noodles. You ready to help?”
Clare had learned that each family brought a “specialty item” to holiday dinners. Maybe it was a unique gelatin dessert, or a specially prepared vegetable dish, rice made in an unusual way, or in the case of Marissa and John, something from their main crop—apple pie. Homemade egg noodles was also a standard for Marissa. She didn’t have a written recipe, she simply made them the way her great-grandmother had taught her. One of her daughters would carry on the tradition when she was gone. Clare also planned to learn how to make the noodles from scratch and by memory. This would be her third time assisting, and she thought she could do it without help.
“May I make the noodles?” she asked.
Marissa raised her eyebrows slightly. Her lips twitched as if she had started to speak and then stopped.
“You remember how?” she finally asked.
Clare nodded. “You can watch in case I mess up.”
Marissa agreed. There was plenty of flour should anything go wrong.