Saturday, April 4, 2015

Easter in Milwaukee

The closest thing I could find online to what we made
My family was not overly religious or very sane. We were all baptized Lutheran but dad enjoyed trying out different cultures and denominations.

For awhile we were made to attend Catholic mass. Being a kid and sitting through a long service on a Sunday was boring.

On top of that we had to go to Sunday school and classes to be confirmed. That became dull and we were pulled out of classes right before I got to wear my immaculate white dress and veil.

He made us kids go to a mosque when he was trying out being muslin. I was washing my feet at a mosque while dad and his friend Newman were praying on oriental rugs. 

Other years he was into being Turkish, Dutch, Spanish and Chinese. There was a throwback period when he introduced the family into his Jewish heritage. He bought Halva which was fun at first. It looked like ice cream and was extremely sweet.  We were pretty poor and sometimes chocolate Halva was lunch and dinner. I can't even think about the honey and nut confection without making my stomach heave to this day. 

As you can imagine Easter was a confusing holiday for me. Mom still wanted us to color eggs and make Easter baskets out of milk containers. A few weeks before we would see a pile of empty milk containers with the tops cut off. Mom was very crafty and would get construction paper and cut out ears, noses, eyes and whiskers. Then a cotton ball glued to the back. 

While she was cutting out the shapes we used those flimsy egg coloring kits. We didn't have those cool and effortless ones they have now. We didn't even have cool egg stickers. Our family had the wobbly wire that dips eggs into assorted bowls of food dye. 

Me and my two sisters and nephew
My brothers were mischievous and would bump my hand. Splash!  The egg would plop into the blue dye as water spilled over the table. One year we had those crayons that would write on an egg and you wouldn't be able to read it until it was dyed. My favorite was snickering and writing something then handing the egg over to my brother. "Hey there is something written on the egg!" He looks down and up with a red face. "Danny smells like farts...Hey?!" After awhile we would just use our hands to dunk the eggs in different bowls. For a day we would run around the house with blue and red dyed hands. 

Mom would help us put together the bunny face on the baskets and fill it with the fake plastic grass. As we slept she filled each one with eggs, candy and Peeps. I loathed Peeps. It always was sticking to the plastic grass and smashed under a heavy boiled egg. 

Some Easters we didn't get a basket. Times were tough and money was tight. Over the years we would sometimes get a box of food from the Catholic church across the street. That was when I was introduced to powdered milk. It is as gross as it sounds. Dad also made us get water from the well in Bay View. It was a toss up as to what was worse, the well water or the watered down fake milk.

During Easter there was lamb shaped butter mold included in the box. To this day it is still the creamiest and tastiest butter I have ever had. 

As my brothers and sisters grew older the whole Easter basket experience became juvenile and silly. I was thirteen when I got my last basket. I woke up to fresh fallen snow in April. Only in Wisconsin. 

There was no milk container but an actual pastel weaved basket. A huge chocolate bunny, Cadbury eggs, and of course a pink mushy Peep. Next to the baskets each girl in the family was given a stuffed bunny in a different colored dress. My bunny had a light shiny purple dress. My brothers got toy cars. 
Those are bunny ears and yes, a lawn chair

Us kids took colored eggs and chucked them in the plowed street. Pieces of blue and red shells were everywhere. Boiled yolk was smeared under rolling tires. We were having a blast shoving chocolate in our mouths and giggling at each other. 

We heard them yelling. Whatever was going on wasn't pretty. 

Mom and dad were arguing over money. Mom was screaming and tossing plates at the floor. They shattered and splintered off on the snow tracked floor. Dad was chugging a beer. My youngest sister started to cry. The boys went into their room and played games. Just another typical Zolo family holiday.

My sisters and I grabbed our stuffed bunny and walked up to the Avalon Movie Theater. In good times and bad that was our place. Admission was pretty cheap and we sneaked in our own snacks. The beautiful star painted sky on the ceiling and fancy decor was divine.  For two hours I was able to forget about heartbreak, sorrow and anger. We were always going to see a movie there, why was Easter any different?

 It didn't even faze us that me and my older sister were teenagers walking around with dolls. The high school was down the street from us. We just marched in the snow in our jackets and candy lined pockets. The Avalon was dead that day. "Mrs. Doubtfire" starring Robin Williams was playing on the big screen.

It was ironic the movie was playing after all it dealt with divorce. Although it would be a few years before mom and dad made the permanent split.  It felt comforting that the Avalon was always there during the ever changing denominations and dynamics within our home. It may not be religiously correct but it was our place of worship.