An Easter story.

Knuckling the sticky motes from our eyes, my sister
and I peeked over the gate, waiting for the procession. We heard it before we
saw it, the trumpet, drum and glockenspiel of the barangay band, the creak and
clang of the carriage bearing the mourning Mother of Christ. Behind her shuffled
a phalanx of women and girls, shivering in their Sunday best.

Mom unlocked the gate and we stepped out
to join the others. We each held a lighted candle, stuck through a paper plate
to catch the drips. It was three in the morning and my sweater was itchy. As we
walked, I peeled the soft wax drips from the candle, thinking to save them to
play with later. This task distracted me so much I stubbed my feet several times
on pebbles that had strayed onto the road. We passed houses still dark with
sleep, and others with gates that unlocked like ours, to let other women out.

We were going to the park behind the
church. There, every Easter morning, the Risen Christ and the Virgin Mary would
meet, his arm raised, her hands outstretched, their respective bands to engage
in a cacophonic duel of French horns and cymbals. (Which probably explains why
Christ rose.) The men stayed behind their statue, and we behind ours, until the
priest gave the signal.

Crushed in the
crowd, my vision filled with backs of thighs and tails of shirts, I could only
imagine it was a glorious meeting. The loudspeaker and lights came on, and the
priest began to speak. He was mumbling through the Easter story. I was
distracted by two children dressed as angels, up in a tree. They had the most
beautiful wings – creamy and golden in the incandescent spotlight, casting huge
indigo shadows on the branches. One child started to bawl, and his mom quickly
came up from behind him and dragged him away from further embarrassment. The
remaining child leaned down from their perch and tied blue and white balloons to
Mary’s black lace veil.

The balloons
took the veil with them, and drifted away into the lightening sky. Much trumpet
snorting and cymbal bashing ensued.

dozed for most of the Mass that followed. Afterward, I noticed the carriages no
longer held the statues. I asked Mom where they’d taken the statue of Mary and
she said it was there, in the grotto. She pointed. I looked and saw only grass.
I said, there’s no grotto there. She said of course there is, it’s right there.
I was convinced Mary had gone somewhere else, perhaps trying to get her veil

Finally, the celebration ended.
People crowded around the empty carriages. Mom told us to push through the mass
of bodies, and we did, still holding on to our candle stubs. All around us, men
and women trampled and shoved their way to the remaining flower arrangements on
the carriages. Not a single lily, sampaguita, gladiola or fern was spared. I
found myself suddenly out of the souvenir riot, with several sticks of
sampaguita. My sister had snared a few as well. We rushed to find Mom, who also
had her flower haul, and we all walked back home, through air scented with
flowers and fireworks.

The memory rose
in me while I stared at Luc making drool bubbles in his sleep. I’m certain Mom
observed that Easter tradition out of her desire to raise God-fearing kids. (And
my libertarian posturing aside, I think she mostly succeeded.) I wonder what
Luc’s memories will be: of his Easters, and all the traditions we have yet to
form. I can only send a quiet prayer up to the heaven of my childhood, that they
will mostly be good, that I will mostly succeed, and that I will finally find
out where on earth that veil landed.