April has this way of suddenly showing up, then just as abruptly making its departure. For the second year in a row, Passover and Easter fall right at the same time, which means I’m hoping to make a few of my beloved Easter treats to enjoy before the house is purged of flour and leavened products.
One of my most cherished recipes is Italian Easter bread. It holds fond memories of my childhood, but also of my life with Michael. Just a few months before he passed away, I snapped a photo of him and Virginia kneading the dough in our old Brooklyn kitchen. They were both so happy, so unaware of the changes soon to take place.
I have that photo on a pillow I had made for Virginia. I realize only now, almost eight years later, how odd that sounds. I even had a pillow made for Isabella, a moment in time frozen of her and Michael in the kitchen on Cape Cod. Only another widow can probably understand why someone would do something so bizarre.
I was trying to fix and help ease a situation for which there was no remedy. The effect of Michael’s loss on his daughters’ lives has always been obvious. Watching them grapple with how to do it every day, live their life without their daddy, has been one of the most difficult things I’ve had to do. It’s especially hard for them as teens to see other kids roll their eyes at the mention of their own parents. They can never understand the hunger and ache in my childrens’ hearts.
As a mother, instinct compels me to want to right every wrong. Death defies my ability to do that no matter how hard I try. And so, I had those stupid pillows made a few months after he passed away. When I stand back and examine it more clearly, logically, I realize the pillows are downright creepy (and good gravy, I had them made for the girls when they were 4 and 9!).
Now they’re shoved into the family room closet, a tell-tale heart of sorts. Locking them away racks me with guilt, as though I’m hiding him. I shoved them in the closet after turning the lights on in the room, and being startled by the sight of Michael’s frozen smile on them. There’s a lot I still don’t know and understand about grief, but trust me when I say your dead husband’s photo on a pillow is never a good idea. I’ll even venture to say a living person’s photo on a pillow is also bad idea.
Anyway, I suppose this has nothing to do with spring holiday celebrations except that for us it’s another time of year where his loss is keenly felt. We will gather around the table for our seder the end of next week. I’ll do the bitter herbs my way (arugula), and use a roasted beet in place of the shank bone. I’ll make favorites from years past, remembering how much Michael loved the potato kugelettes (reminiscent of homemade tater tots), and stumble through every bit of the haggadah, which we never read before because he never wanted to do a traditional seder.
I’m sure my Catholic mother wonders where she went wrong. All I can say to her is she did everything right. Whereas many of us are born into a heritage or culture, and accept it without question, I always felt like a round peg trying to fit in a square opening. I still ask so many questions, and am not completely convinced in who the higher being is responsible for my existence beyond the concrete answers science offers.
What I do know is I’ve been searching for a connection my whole life. I found it once, and it inspires me every day to stoke the embers of our family so they may shine bright, and inspire our daughters to tell our stories and carry our memories into their own futures.
2-Ingredient Chocolate Mousse (perfect for Easter, too)