As we wrap up spring break and, mercifully, get back to our routine I wanted to spend a bit of time talking about the importance of traditions for me and Hope. We’ve now had Thanksgiving, Christmas, Valentine’s Day (not really a major holiday but I made a big deal out of it) and Easter together, spread out across visits and placement. Through these holidays I’ve come to learn more about what Hope has experienced and what she hasn’t in terms of holiday traditions. I’ve also come to learn what kinds of traditions she’s yearned for her in short life.
My traditions are new to her; no way around it. Some of those traditions, those with lots of family interaction, for example, cause her quite a bit of anxiety. There are lots of “why do we have to…;” to which I reply, “because we just do, always have.” She usually falls in line and ends up having a positive experience.
Leading up to Easter I started planting seeds about dressing up in new clothes for Easter. My girl says she hates dresses, but the two I’ve managed to get her in have required a crowbar to get her out of—oh and all the preening! J We stumbled upon a dress several weeks ago and finally got some shoes yesterday. She may only wear the dress and the shoes once; some may think that doing this with a 12 year old is silly or an overemphasizing the more material aspects of Easter. But for Hope, this is her first Easter with me, but bigger than that, it is her first Easter, according to her, getting an Easter outfit and an Easter basket.
By the time I was Hope’s age, I was no longer getting Easter baskets. I usually still got a new dress for church, but my family downplayed the candy and pretty clothes narrative in favor of greater emphasis on the resurrection. That’s cool, that is the point, right? But there is something delightful about having those child years that included waking up to an Easter basket and pretty new clothes to go celebrate Jesus (if that’s what you believe). There’s an innocence associated with it.
Hope didn’t have that. A few foster families attempted to create that experience for her, but my lovely girl was in such a state that she really doesn’t remember; she barely remembers last Easter. This week she told to me that she’d never had an Easter basket (ever!). I’m not certain this is entirely true, but she believes it. I dare you to convince her otherwise. So does it really matter whether it’s true? Nope, sure doesn’t. The reality is that Hope wasn’t in a stable environment where she was taken to go sit on a dingy bunny’s lap at the mall for an overpriced picture or woke up to a sparkly basket at the foot of the bed or got to put on a new dress and shoes purchased for the express purpose of looking pretty at Easter.
Listening to Hope share a history that had none of these experiences was hard. These are things I take for granted in my own life. They are embedded pieces of my family life that are a part of what made my family a family and what made me feel safe. Imagine for a minute not having some of the trappings of tradition; the thought of not having them made me realize how important those things were structurally to what I understood to be my childhood.
So, this morning I was up driving around looking for white tights—her insistence, not mine— and assembling an Easter basket. She was so excited about her basket! She loved it.
She dressed up for church, putting on her white tights that made her look like a freakishly tall 5 year-old. The tights are now my metaphor for her emotional age. I tried to get her to go bare legged or to let me buy some “soft brown” pantyhose, but, no she insisted on white tights. #shrugok #nudedoesntworkforus
She pulled out her “good” jewelry for the occasion and slipped on her new shoes. She put on the sparkly headband. #jewelsforjesus
She wriggled and fidgeted until neighbors and parishioners told her how beautiful she was in her Easter garb. We’ve been home for over an hour, and she still hasn’t changed. Hope insists she hates dresses, but just manage to get her in one and you’ll be hard pressed to get her to change out of it. She is deep in a tomboy phase fashion-wise, but my lovely girl likes pretty things.
I can’t say that I expected to make such a big deal out of Easter, but it became clear that it was important in creating scaffolding for our long term relationship. Hope needs traditions to help her settle in and know that this is real and this is family.
I’m off to go bake a ham and make a few other holiday dishes for Easter dinner.
Have a blessed day for He is risen.