By Tim Hayes
The sun hadn’t even begun to sneak a peek over the horizon yet, but under that gauzy, pink-and-beige, pre-sunrise sky, my younger sister and I silently snuck downstairs every Easter morning while everyone else slumbered away.
Looking behind couches, under the piano bench, on top of the fridge, and a dozen other of Mom’s reliable hiding places, within seconds we had each found our basket, full of chocolate and marshmallows and jellybeans, resting on plastic “grass” stuffed across the bottom. Breakfast was served!
Next, we’d go over to the giant Sears TV console, adjust the big plastic knob that rotated the antenna up on the roof, and flip channels until we found it. Our favorite Easter morning show. Once it started at 6:30 a.m., we plopped onto the floor, started unwrapping the bunnies and eggs, and watched, riveted to the screen, for the next 30 minutes.
I couldn’t even guess the name of the program we liked so much. It starred no one famous. Its production values, if by some miracle I saw it again today, would no doubt be appallingly low and embarrassingly amateur – with the quality of acting not far behind. But we loved it. Easter wasn’t Easter until we’d seen it.
The show depicted the story of Christ’s crucifixion (which got dispatched right up front, very quickly and neatly) and resurrection (which got the lion’s share of screen time). I have no way to explain or justify this, but the image of Peter and John running to the empty tomb and looking in – I see that as clearly and vividly in my mind’s eye today as when I was seven.
Images from that little shoestring religious TV show made the Gospel readings in church later that morning so much more relatable. After all, I had just seen those two apostle guys actually do what Father only read about at Mass. It became real in my head, not just a story out of a book.
Isn’t it uncanny how little slices of experience and exposure stick with you for decades? Why would a low-budget, half-hour, pious early-morning program about the Easter story not only take on such significance for a little kid, but remain a treasured memory almost a half-century later?
The same thing happened at Christmas every year. I could not get into a holiday spirit, Christmas just wasn’t Christmas, until I heard Linus quoting the story of the Nativity from the Gospel of Luke during “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” In fact, I remember racing home to our newlywed apartment after a school board meeting I had to cover as a newspaper reporter, bursting through the door and flipping on the TV just in time to hear Linus, clutching his blanket, explain, “That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.” It saved my whole season that year.
Today, of course, nobody has to wait for anything to run on TV. You can slip in a DVD, click on YouTube, or log onto the iTunes Store and watch whatever, whenever. “Rudolph” on Flag Day? No problem. “The Ten Commandments” at the beach? Why not?
And while I’m all for technology, access, and convenience, I still think there’s something to be said for tradition. For appropriateness and association. For waiting until it’s the proper time to enjoy things.
Things like the small miracles of growing up that last forever – such as sneaking downstairs with your kid sister in the pre-dawn silence of Easter, munching on chocolate rabbit ears, and watching Peter and John on TV running to the empty tomb, discovering the greatest miracle in history and one that also will last forever.
He is Risen. Happy Easter, everyone.
Copyright 2016 Transverse Park Productions LLC and Tim Hayes Consulting