Native Science

easter in madison

Easter in Madison with Wey-Wee-Nah and Wak-O-Apa (Rachel and Megan)

Easter Frocks and Magic 

My mother would sew four matching Easter dresses each year–the only day I can remember when my sisters and I all went to church.

Easter was bright and warm in Southern California, and my grandparents would arrive before breakfast on Sunday with baskets of chocolates.

We’d stain our dresses hunting for hard-boiled eggs in the grass, which my parents hid.

My grandmother would dip into her Indian funds and buy us Easter shoes: white patent leather Mary Janes or sandals.

The funds were courtesy of oil unearthed on the reservation, and my grandmother used her share for rent, gasoline, food and treats for the family.

My grandfather would arrive with a live rabbit or Guinea pig, which would infuriate my mother and bite my sisters’ fingers.

The animals would disappear within the week.

When my own girls were small, they indulged my sewing and wore frilly frocks on Easter and dyed eggs in the kitchen.

My husband would cook lamb—a tradition in his family—and we’d eat the ears off chocolate bunnies.

When I was little, my grandmother would treat us to dinner—spaghetti at a neighborhood Trattoria.

We’d wear our hand-made dresses and new shoes, and crowd around my grandmother at the dinner table, begging her to show the waiter her magic.

“Show him, Granny, show him!” we’d cry.

My grandmother was obliged to perform for the waiter.

She’d take a water glass and set it in front of her.

“Do it, Granny, do it,” we begged.

And then Granny would remove her teeth and drop them into the water glass.

We screamed with delight.

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About Cynthia Coleman Emery

Professor and researcher at Portland State University who studies science communication, particularly issues that impact American Indians. She is enrolled with the Osage tribe.
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