Easter
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I dread Easter more than any other holiday. Perhaps it's post-traumatic stress from the ducks my father got for me shortly before Easter when I was four. It was common in those days to give kids pet ducks and rabbits before Easter. Unfortunately, that year the ducks were infecting children with Bell's Palsy, a condition that temporarily paralyzes half of the face.

I don't remember having Bell's Palsy, but years later I saw pictures of myself with it. I was wearing a pink dress with a pig on the front of it, playing with my ducks and rabbits, my face twisted into a half smile.

I don't know where the ducks went after they left, but I do remember what happened to the rabbits that year. The night before Easter, my father told me to say goodbye to them. He said they had to leave to deliver eggs to all the children, and then they would return to bunny-land. When I woke up the next morning, the bunnies were indeed gone.

Later, when we went to my grandparents' house for Easter dinner, I told my cousin, Michael, that my rabbits left the night before to deliver eggs. It made no sense. I had three rabbits, and I figured it should only take one to deliver the eggs, especially since Santa could deliver all his presents in one night. Michael told me that his rabbits ran away the night before when his mother opened the garage door.

During this conversation, our grandmother entered the dining room bearing a great fragrant pot of steaming rabbit cacciatore. Our jaws dropped and we exchanged horrified looks.

More recently I was in the kitchen when my father took the Easter lamb out of the oven to baste it. It was tiny and completely recognizable.

There's something about this holiday that turns a certain subculture of Italians into savages that revel in killing cute, small, furry little animals.

I did yoga to prepare myself for Easter dinner with my family this year. I found my center and surrendered to gravity. I was supposed to be there at 2:30, but I was fashionably late. I ignored the ringing phone as I was getting ready to leave, knowing there would be an impatient relative on the other end.

When I arrived, I snuck into the backyard to hide candy-filled plastic eggs for my niece and nephew. That was when I saw the squirrel trap.

I chuckled as I recalled a conversation I had with my niece the previous spring about Grampy's squirrel trap.

"We must sneak outside and de-activate that squirrel trap." I told her when I noticed it outside the window in my old bedroom.

"But Auntie, squirrel cacciatore is delicious," she replied earnestly.

"But the squirrels are cute and fluffy."

"Yeah, but they're good eatin'."

While hiding the eggs, I noticed a splotch of what looked like bright red paint on the ground.

After the kids found the eggs, they decided to hide them again. My niece stepped in the paint while we were playing.

"Eww. I have blood on my shoe!" she cried.

"That's not blood, honey," I reassured her.

"Yes, it is," she said, scraping her shoe on the grass.

My father called us in for the first course.

Jonna was really upset about her shoes, so I told her to leave them on the porch, and we'd deal with them later.

During antipasto, we had the classic argument about gay marriage. The recent decision by the high court in Massachusetts supporting gay marriage has my father in such upset that he seizes every opportunity to raise the issue, trying to convince us to revolt.

As I argued to the left, he poured me more wine. "Maybe if you have enough to drink, you'll start to think properly," he suggested.

"You could never get me that drunk."

I cleared the dishes and brought them out into the kitchen. I cringed and looked away when I saw the lamb heads in a pan on the counter, waiting to be stuffed. The tradition of rabbit cacciatore has been replaced with this macabre "delicacy," which my father and brother enjoy every year at Easter. We decided to go back outside in between courses. Jonna was still worried about the blood on her shoes.

"Why do you think it's blood?" I asked her.

She looked over her shoulder and then shut the door to my room. "Grampy catches the squirrels in the trap and then shoots them," she explained.

"He shoots them when they're in the trap?"

She nodded solemnly.

"How do you know this?" I asked.

"Grampy told me," she replied.

"That's nice," I said warmly, my heart brimming with holiday joy.

  
 
"Auntie, I can't wear those sneakers like that. Could you please wash the squirrel blood off of them?"

"Of course."

After I washed the blood of the sacrificial squirrel off Jonna's sneakers, we all went back outside. The kids wanted to hide the eggs again. Their search for different hiding spots led us to the very back of the backyard, near the brush that is behind what was referred to by our mother as "the laundry area." My brother pointed to a spot nearby and chuckled. It was Grampy's squirrel graveyard, where six tiny squirrel corpses were huddled stiffly together. I gasped, and my brother laughed raucously.

My sister-in-law pointed to a big dark hole in the ground near the squirrel graveyard.

"What's that?" she asked.

"The cesspool," my brother and I replied in unison.

As children, we were warned repeatedly by our mother that going near the cesspool was even more dangerous than taking candy from strangers, for the cesspool loves to eat little children. My brother then delivered the cesspool speech that our mother drilled into us as kids.

"It will suck you up like quicksand," said John, throwing a large branch into the hole to demonstrate. The branch sunk slowly into the darkness.

My brother picked up one of the dead squirrels by his tail and tossed him into the cesspool.

I was done. There was nothing left to do but scream and run away. I rested my weary head on the cool hood of my car.

Little footsteps followed me, and my nephew, Mikey, appeared from around the corner. "Auntie, why did you go 'AHHH' and run away?"

"Because it's bad to throw dead squirrels in the cesspool," I cried, knowing at that very moment, my brother was behind the house, laughing at me and tossing the rest of the squirrels into the hole.

My father called us in for the next course. It was time to watch them eat their lamb heads.

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