Although she was a lapsed Catholic from the age of 16, my mother made sure that we were raised with exposure to religion in many forms. Primarily, we were raised in the Episcopalian church and it was a very important part of our lives, forming a community in which we had many friends and activities. Mum was active in the altar guild but rarely attended services unless one of us were receiving an award, confirmation or participating. Ironically, she also was part of a very active group at the local Baptist church. It was called the Willing Workers and they spent countless hours volunteering to help those in need in any way. They even published their own cookbook which lives on with many, many of Mum's recipes.
Our Easters were very special and my most wonderful memory is of our church, St. Andrew's in Hanover, MA, redolent with the scent of geraniums as we arrived dressed in our Easter finery and shoes (which always hurt my feet), for this most special of services led by our beloved, Reverend Jones. There was the presentation of our special offering boxes and each child in the church walked up to receive one of the beautiful red geraniums to take home as a gift for our parents, all set to the background of glorious music.
Somehow these memories are very keen this year, as I have reconnected with Rev. Jones' son, Albie. We were even able to get together last Fall when he visited New England briefly. It was as though we hadn't had nearly 50 years of separation. We had the most wonderful time reliving memories of St. Andrew's and sharing news of friends, as well as catching up on each others lives. I am very grateful for his friendship, and especially his support recently as he also had cardiac by-pass surgery. He was able to coach me with what to expect in LM's recovery.
My sisters and I were very active in the church youth groups. Through those activities, we were able to travel to other churches and meet new people, hear beautiful music and see incredible architecture, and we were mentored by some devoted leaders. I was even part of a group that toured New York City and many of its beautiful churches and cathedrals, and for a 7th grade farm girl from a very small town, that was a huge event. Looking back I see how social skills, and a lot of who I am were formed through those experiences.
After Easter services we would come home and then share a beautiful Easter dinner at my paternal grandparents' home in the old farmhouse which was just next to the house where we lived. "Nana" would have spent all of the previous week planning, shopping and cooking for the dinner and, thinking back, there were times when we wanted to be there and loved every minute, and then there were the almost teen years when we would rather have been anywhere else! LOL Now I would give anything to relive an Easter at Nana's with both my parents and all my siblings and to hear my grandfather telling his famous stories. There was usually, baked ham, scalloped potatoes, asparagus, sweet potatoes, many relishes and freshly baked rolls, and a cake for dessert and there was more Easter candy than we had already received from the bunny!
I am really thankful that my parents gave us this exposure, allowed us to make up our own minds about religion, and encouraged discussion. It is a very great gift which lives on in me today when I mostly find my church in the presence and beauty of nature, and the scent of geraniums ALWAYS takes me right back to my roots at St. Andrew's.