Candance Booth, age 5, with party hat
I want spring to arrive with an Easter bonnet, but not the kind from Saks Fifth Avenue. I want the bonnet to be made from a white paper plate, where the chin band is crepe paper and wads of crepe paper flowers cover the top. The Easter photo of myself at age five was taken in black and white. But when I look at it, the color of Easter is still bright in my mind—the yellow and blue and green outdoors, the pink satisfaction of wearing a decorative hat.
I don’t know why I shop for an Easter dress every year. I never buy one. Each February I notice a feminine frock hanging on a model in a store window. A refreshment stand builds in my head, with a pitcher of limeade and a jelly jar of wild flowers. Each March I drive out of my way to visit clothing boutiques or drop by the mall on my lunch hour, searching for a flowered print with a flared skirt. In my imagination I wear white oxfords and a crinoline half slip like the one I wore when I was five. But under the neon lights of the department store changing room, I see that I am too old to be wearing a bow. Each April, as I drive by the does with their fawns, I resurrect the desire, carrying in my mind a little basket of colored eggs as I glide between the clothing racks. Even if I buy it, I think, where will I wear it? A family photo would only consist of my husband snapping a picture of me holding an unwilling cat. And that’s how I pass each year without an Easter dress.
I haven’t been to art class in a year, but I heard they are planning a trip to Paris this spring, to paint in Monet’s Giverny gardens. They pay for two weeks of room and board, then paint when the gardens are closed to the public. When the gardens are open, they go into Paris in a van or take day hikes into the countryside.
I am not planning a trip to Paris. I am having my air ducts cleaned of cedar pollen and mold. When the service man was in the attic, he said the ducts needed to be replaced soon. The front porch needs to be replaced, too, before a service man slips on boards that have worked themselves free from the stringers. And the front door should be stripped and refinished. But I can’t find a good carpenter that isn’t booked up for the next 12 months. So I just stand out front watching the nails popping out of the boards—a kind of industrial spring, grey buds rather than green, iron rather than sap.
I started daydreaming about painting a landscape in Paris in the spring, how I would shop for French shoes and a French dress with a big floppy hat to match. In my imagination, I walked up and down the Champs Elysees, petticoat swinging from side to side in sync with the fields of paradise.
Then, from out of the blue spring sky, the carpenter called to say he could start tomorrow. I’m sure I heard the sound of my Paris bubble popping, even before he arrived with paper and pencil and calculator. After discussing what the repairs would cost, I heard the refreshment stand collapsing and the vase of wildflowers shattering. Let’s just say I’m not going anywhere soon unless it’s free, possibly even subsidized.
My days of little white petticoats are long gone, I’m afraid. No one my age wears an Easter bonnet. Entropy is alive and well at every season, although it can be bribed by throwing money at it. Lots of it. But happily, a dozen Easter eggs are still pretty inexpensive to make. The blue sky and yellow sunshine and green leaves are all free. Pink I’m obliged to generate from within: a little potassium, a sniff from the cat’s right hind paw, a smear of dirt from the base of a rose bush, the site of my husband laughing, a streak of white jet vapor in the sky over the lake as I drive to work. To tell you the truth, the thought of a brand new front porch and a fresh new outdoor staircase thrills me in a way I never would have predicted as I sat for my kindergarten photo. I find it’s just about as good as a pink crepe paper hat.
It was free then,
the crepe paper tied under my left ear,
the nightly repairs to my white shoes
to remove the scuff marks,
the hillside of children hunting eggs.
Still free is the lopsided grin
and the feel of wooden steps
against bare thighs.
Mozart plays “You’ve Lost that Lovin’
minus the lost part.
Bach plays “Imagine”
and you find it’s still possible.