By Sean Dietrich
It was the worst Easter Sunday ever. People arrived to service dressed in pastels, wearing those big soupy grins. They were happy people. No. Worse than that. They were families.After Daddy died, we were half a family.
In the woods behind the church sat a rusted Buick with busted windows. It was the perfect place for sitting. Or crying.
On Easter Sunday, I did both. While cheerful folks sat in the chapel, I hiked through the brush, plodding through the creek, toward the Buick. I climbed onto the roof. I loosened my green tie, rolled it into a tight ball, then flung it as far as I could.
I hated that thing. It was my father’s.
The same necktie I’d worn to his funeral only six months earlier. It still smelled like him, which made me sick to my stomach. And then I started sobbing.
I was interrupted by footsteps in the brush. It was Phillip, who was a few years older than me. He climbed up beside me. “You didn’t want to hear the sermon today?” he asked.
I didn’t answer, because I didn’t give a cuss about sermons.
Six months after your daddy dies, the last thing you want is to hear some fella yapping about the joy of the Lord.
“You play first base, don’t you?” Phillip asked. “Hell, I ain’t no good at baseball.” He removed his necktie and tucked it in his pocket. “Don’t you hate ties?”
“You know,” Phillip went on. “My daddy left my mom and me before I was born. Shoot, my buddy Billy, he don’t even know if he HAS a daddy. And Roger Allen, his daddy died when he was just a toddler. Lots of us ain’t got daddies, you know.”
I said nothing.
“I suppose,” he said. “What I’m trying to say is, you’re part of our club now.”
He nodded toward two boys in the distance. It was Billy and Roger Allen, leaning against an oak tree. None of them had neckties on.
“Dammit,” said Phillip. “I don’t know squat about how you’re feeling. But I know nobody’s alone in this world. Not even you.”
And then he let me ruin his sport-jacket with my snot.
I understand Phillip can preach the paint off a fire-plug, nowadays.
But I liked his first sermon the best.
It’s Easter down South; I’m so excited I can barely hold my bladder.
And I’m not alone. Bishop Ricky Moore, in Shreveport, has Easter fever worse than me. Yesterday, old Ricky dressed up like Jesus, took a deep breath, and then sealed himself inside a coffin. His deacons swore not to open the thing again until Easter.
You heard me right.
Ricky will lay in a locked casket for thirty-six hours; no food, water, toilet, or pound cake.
Had Ricky attempted this stunt up north in, say, Toledo, Ohio, they’d have carried him off to the crazy house. But this is the South. Ricky’s selling T-shirts.
And why not? Easter is grander in our part of the world than in other places. It’s the pinnacle of our calendar. Holidays like Christmas, Mardis Gras, and the SEC Championship are cotton balls compared to Resurrection Day.
Here, Easter is when all Dixie busts open like an azalea blossom. There’s singing, seersucker suits, hidden eggs, and Sunday lunches big enough to make your ears ring and your feet swell.
Gospel quartets visit town. Fellas with big hair, belting out songs that make your granny stand up in her pew and shout, “Tell it, boy!” Which isn’t like timid Granny at all — except on Easter.
In Alexandria, Alabama, off Highway 63, Mount Zion Baptist puts on a roadside pageant for folks driving by. Three middle-aged men, who look like your uncle Joey, stand on wooden crosses for half the day, wearing only their skivvies.
“It’s more dangerous than it looks,” remarked one Alabama official. “Jesus’ knees will lock up if he’s not careful. They need to make sure to drink plenty of Gatorade out there.”
Well, I’m not going to lie, I’ve worn an Easter tunic or two in my day. And, by God, I’m proud to say it. This is Resurrection Day. A day we choose to believe in things that mean something. When we attend the churches our daddies grew up in. When we think about our friends who’ve crossed the river.
It’s when Mama wears her hat; when preachers holler things like, “He’s risen!” When Granny shouts back, “He’s risen indeed,” so loud she cracks her hip.
Anyway, don’t forget, lunch is at noon.
And for heaven’s sake, somebody don’t forget to unlock Ricky tomorrow morning.
Sean Dietrich is a columnist, and novelist, known for his commentary on life in the American South. His work has appeared in Southern Living, the Tallahassee Democrat, Southern Magazine, Yellowhammer News, the Bitter Southerner, the Mobile Press Register and he has authored seven books.