Vintage Easter Memories
Empty candy containers are full of Easter nostalgia for antiques expert and Cleaver columnist, Martha Whitney Butler!
I still have a scar on my chin from my shiny new tricycle that I received from the Easter bunny. My parents quickly learned they had a clumsy child on their hands that morning and I remember my mom relentlessly scrubbing the blood out of my Easter dress and my dad rushing me to the ER to get my chin stitched up.
That begins my recollection of many Easters trying to get all five of us children out of the house in one piece and to church on time. Between ripping us away from our new gifts, mending that one and only pair of white tights with dental floss, and bandaging sprained ankles (all before Sunday school), I don't see how my parents did it. What child would want to leave their newly rescued (live) bunnies and go sit quietly in a pew? Not the Butler children. We were a hot mess, but we were dressed to the nines!
That's what all of these Easter trinkets do to me. They make me remember. I believe that's why most people bought them then and why they still buy them today. Nothing brings back the joys of childhood quite like these things. You can really just feel all of that joy when you pick them up, like there's some weird, mystical energy exuding from them.
I can imagine how it felt to be a post-war mother eyeing one of these whimsical objects in the candy shop window. I see her working all week just to be able to spare the few cents it cost so that her children could have something to pry open on that morning. I feel the anticipation it created as their small hands fumbled the edges until finally it broke open with a “POP!” that echoed in its cardboard chambers. And there inside lay the prize of what was probably mediocre pastel pure sugar — much like today!
The clear plastic packages of modernity have nothing on the paper-mache bunnies and eggs of the past. What does it say about today’s society? Do we value transparency over the anticipation of surprises? Do we sacrifice craftsmanship for cheap plastic convenience? I'd like to think most of my readers who still have their childhood Easter baskets pull them out from year to year and fill them to the brim with Elmer’s Heavenly Hash and Gold Bricks and that each and every one of us has a favorite memory or two spurred by the cracking open of a beautiful West German paper-mache egg.
I miss the days when mothers took their children’s baskets to the florist to have them wrapped in cellophane and topped with a large bow and the color of shoes was bone white, not stark white. Bring back the bonnets and bows and specialty candies and please, PLEASE stop selling Peeps year-round. It's blasphemous.
From the girl who ruined every Easter dress she owned, who won every $20 golden egg at GranDot’s (because she cheated), and who stole all of Heather Phipps’s eggs out of her basket while she stood there and squalled — HAPPY EASTER!