Noe Valley Voice April 2004

Florence's Family Album
Easters Remembered

By Florence Holub

Florence Holub shares a few "cottontales" in this month's column, reprinted from the April 1990 Noe Valley Voice.

There are many Easter photos in my family album, and each prompts a special memory. The earliest Easter that I can remember was one of wonder at receiving a marshmallow-filled, chocolate-coated Easter egg, upon which the Easter Bunny had, with flourishes and frosting, personally written my name!

And then there is the faded 1926 photograph of me at age 7, holding a candy-filled basket, wearing a new straw bonnet, and smiling broadly--revealing two missing front teeth.

One distressing memory comes from the year my brothers and I were given some live baby chicks. They were so adorable, and we were so delighted with their peeping, that we were shocked the morning after Easter to find them all dead. Without a mother to keep them warm, the poor little creatures had huddled together in their box under the stove. We wailed loudly until we were distracted with baskets overflowing with sweets. (A small yellow marshmallow chick in mine, however, triggered a few more sobs.)

There were exhausting Easters too, when our family and relatives hiked up to the cross on top of Mount Davidson while it was still pitch-dark, to be there in time for the sunrise service. We children, sandwiched between the standing adults, could never see or hear much, so we always left the worship early, scurrying over the hilly terrain of grass and wildflowers back to Noe Valley. We hurried (sometimes falling, skinning our knees, and ripping our Easter clothing--my cousin Herbert ruined his knickers) because we knew that our mother was preparing delicious waffles for everyone, and we wanted to be the first to eat them.

One frivolous holiday I shall never forget. My friend Elsie and I had shopped for weeks to find the perfect bonnets. We were young working girls, earning enough to indulge ourselves, and it was the custom to attend church to show off one's finery. (The song "In Your Easter Bonnet" tells it all.) That Easter, Elsie and I had decided to attend the nearest church, although we weren't members, so that our friends would be sure to see us. But as we sat listening to the sermon, we were a bit taken aback when the minister, scanning the huge array of frilly spring hats, said solemnly, "I want to wish you all a Merry Christmas, because I know that I will not see most of you again until next Easter." He never saw us again at all.

A rather mysterious Easter occurred when my husband Leo and I, newly married with small children, spent the holiday with Leo's parents in Grass Valley. We boiled and decorated eight dozen eggs, and in the morning, before our boys awakened, we hid them out in the garden. A few hours later, the hunt began, and the boys, joined by a few cousins, scrambled around every nook and cranny until all the eggs were found--we thought. Two dozen eggs were still missing. The adults looked too, but without much success. Leo's mother didn't join in because she had another concern. Her big black Labrador, who usually dogged the children, had crawled into his doghouse and was lying there listlessly, with doleful eyes. She offered him some dog food, but he showed no interest, so she brought him a saucer of milk, his favorite treat. Still no response. Nippy was a good dog and had been with the family for a long time, so everyone felt apprehensive. But he recovered miraculously the next day, after his walk. Later we observed a mound of incriminating evidence, laced with eggshells. Of course it was only circumstantial, so he was never charged.

The most pleasant holiday was the first Easter we spent in our own home on 21st Street, atop Dolores Heights. We leisurely basked in the sunshine on the deck, watching our 3-year-old search for the eggs that his older brothers had hidden. In the company of Leo's parents and my father, we experienced a family day of ease and contentment.

But the most profound Easter of all occurred in 1969 during the Vietnam War, when the holiday coincided with a San Francisco peace march. I attended the march with our son Eric, then 12 years old. It began at the Civic Center, proceeded north almost to the end of Van Ness Avenue, turned west for 14 blocks, and ended at the Presidio, where a speaker's stand had been constructed.

From the beginning of the march, the mood was quietly reverent. Occasionally someone would sing a song like "Kumbaya" or "Give Peace a Chance," but often the only sound was that of shuffling feet. The title of a best-selling book written by a pacifist priest, Are You Running with Me, Jesus?, came to mind at the time, not as a question, but more as an answer. His spirit was there, with the thousands of people of every age, race, and income, moving in one direction, for one reason: peace.

For several hours we listened to speakers, while I sketched the people milling around. In the crowd, we recognized Eric's pretty young James Lick teacher, Miss North, who was there with her sister. After a friendly chat, we invited Miss North and her sister to come over for the turkey dinner that was roasting in our oven at home.

In their delightful company, together with our family members who had stayed home to watch the oven and the game on television, we happily ended the most meaningful of all Easter Sundays. m