Pancakes on Easter Morn

There are times in everyone’s life that you remember well. I myself have a great many of them. Some of them are so strong, that I need only to close my eyes and I can still smell the small dab of vanilla flavoring my Grams would put behind each ear as her perfume. I can still feel the rough whiskers on my Gramps weathered cheek as I leaned in to kiss him. I see the bright green of Grams eyes, the twinkling blue of my Gramps. I hear their laughter, their voices as they sat and talked over their days. And I can still taste the pancakes Grams made on Easter Morn.
My family went to church every Sunday. We went to choir practice on Monday nights, Wednesdays found us there for mid-week services and bright and early to Bible school every summer. We would all load into my parents Dodge Rambler, pick up Grams and head on in to the Baptist church. It was the only time in the whole summer we would be required to wear shoes.
But on Easter Sunday, for sun rise services we would rise at four in the morning, to celebrate in the resurrection of Christ, our community and our family and friends. We would not take the time to eat on that morning, knowing and anticipating the treasure of Easter breakfast when we went returned to Grams.
The preachers would change over the years. Some of them old, others young, each had a different style, a different idea of what they were trying to convey. One pastor was a woman, though she did not last much longer than a few weeks, she still made her impression in our Sunday rituals. But the services were always the same. Songs sung loud and clear, seldom on key. Children could be heard fussing and mothers hushing them. Occasionally you could hear a soft snore, usually followed by a sharp cough from a direct hit with an elbow to the rib from their spouse. Families would sit in the same pews, in the same order every week.
My family sat in the middle of the church, on the left hand side. We would fill an entire row – the five Deatherage children lined up by age, oldest to the youngest, my mother on one end and my father at the other and then Grams. Sometimes one or more of the men who worked for my father would join us if they were staying with us in our house at the time.
The summer I turned ten, the original church burnt to the ground. Faulty wiring we were told. I wonder now if they meant the church had faulty wiring, or the people who might have been responsible had faulty wiring.
Southern folks don’t take well to change. Nor to anyone who might be different. An African American couple – not what they had been called back then – had moved to the area that summer. They came to our little church their first Sunday they had moved in. I can still remember their fresh faces, the little bundle the Mrs. held so tightly to her breast. They only came the one time; there was no church after that until we built a new one. The next night it burnt to the ground. Rumor was there had also been a cross burning in the young couples yard that night as well.
My Gramps told me that it was sad what was lost. The old pews with the shiny seats from the butts riding up and down them, the toys in the basement that the kids cannot play with anymore. He said that it was a terrible shame, terrible indeed what we had all lost. I thought that he was silly at the time. We were getting all new pews, ones with cushions and brand new toys to play with. And as far as could remember, Gramps had never set foot in the old church, nor did he the new one. He had not been talking about the pews, but the people who sat in them. The change from the tight community that we had once been to the ones who would burn down a country church because someone different had sat in their midst. The toys would never be played with by children untouched by prejudices or bigotry. Their innocent minds would be clouded with doubt and mistrust because their parents were no longer innocent nor without guilt.
Was he this profound, this smart? Yes. I believe he was. My Gramps was a very intelligent man. He was quiet, so quiet that at times one would forget he was there. So he would listen, learn and gather. I’m sure now that he knew who had burned the church, and why.
What does this have to do with pancakes on Easter Sunday? Everything.
My Grams pancakes were special. She would make hundreds of silver dollar pancakes for us every Easter Sunday with her special syrup poured warm all over the stacks. Pounds of bacon were fried, along with equal amounts of fresh smoked sausage. Fresh butter melted down them to make rivers of “gravy” to sop up with the last bite or two. No one left the table hungry, no one left without a groan or two. You could count on being full for several hours easily.
The summer I turned ten was the last time we had her pancakes after church. The last time we rose at four in the morning to get ready to go to sunrise service. The last time we trusted our fellow parishioners.
You see, the little bundle held so tightly in the woman’s arms that morning, the little girl all dressed in pink didn’t make it out of the burning house that night. Supposedly the burning cross, too close to the house caught the little home on fire and it too burned to the ground, taking little Lily with it.
It was years later that I found this out. Many years later before I thought about those people we sat next to, the men and women whose faulty wiring might have taken the life of one so small. My family continued to go to services there. Helped build the new church, taught in the new Sunday school classes. But we never returned for the ice cream socials, the sewing rings or the Christmas pageants. We did not attend Bible school and we never went to another sun rise service either.
I was married in that church, the new one. My husband and I took our vows and pledged ourselves to each other. But I have not been back there since. I have not set foot in that little white church on the hill in over thirty years. I’m not even sure if it still has services, not even sure it still stands.
Did I lose my innocence’s that summer? No. The love of my Grandparents made sure I did not. I went on with my childhood without a care in the world. I had an idealized childhood with my Grandparents and their love. They made me what I am today.
I do not eat pancakes. I cannot care for them. I think I now know why. Funny isn’t it, how something seemingly so small can make such a change in one’s life.
There are many many more memories to go. None of them quite as harsh as this one, but just as vivid that I look forward to putting to paper and sharing. I cannot wait to pull the next one out and walk down the path again.

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