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How My Son Saved Easter

A story of unmet expectations and the lesson of letting go.

It was with high hopes one Easter several years ago that I whipped together a batch of homemade salt dough, ready for the hours of fun family time with my children that would result. As I mixed, cooled, and kneaded, I imagined our cozy family of four all scooched up close around the round kitchen table (never mind that ours is rectangular), laughing together as we fashioned little clay shapes that would become an Easter centerpiece. Of course, it would be identical to the picture in the craft book—a delicate bird's nest cradling tiny blue robin's eggs.

In this picture in my head, we were each doing our small part. My boys were squishing dough through the garlic press in a beautiful cooperative effort. My husband and I were gently extracting every ounce of teachability from the moment. I envisioned how we would talk about working together as a body, each one with his unique role that added up to a perfect whole. We might talk about the symbolism of the eggs as new life, or the nest and the way God can make something useful and good out of the scruffy, old twigs in our lives. Oh, the fun we would have!

"Hey guys," I hollered up the stairs. "Come on down. I have a project for us to do."

Over the background noise of incessantly cheery video game music, I distinctly heard groans. "Do we have to?" said one of the boys, or maybe it was both.

I searched my brain for an answer. This wasn't in my script.

"Well, no, you don't have to," I stammered. "But it'll be fun. We're going to make an Easter centerpiece." My enthusiasm began to wane as my fantasy family was slowly replaced by my real one. Without wanting to, I recalled my last attempt at family crafts time. Or maybe it was the last dozen attempts. Into my memory came the beautiful origami paper that I finally conceded would never be folded into little paper cranes (we sold the paper at the church flea market). Next came the cross-stitch kits I had poignantly passed on to two young girls the previous summer, finally acknowledging that we were not to be a cross-stitch family, either. To my dismay, the memories just kept coming.

"Guys? What do you say?" My then-12- and 13-year-old sons were kind and sensitive and all that, but the choice between Crash Bandicoot video games or a spiritually significant craft project with Mom was a no-brainer.

"Uh, Mom? Mind if we don't come?"

"No," I faltered. "But if you change your mind … it's gonna be fun."

I sounded lame even to myself.

My husband was happy in the garage doing chores, so I decided to make the nest and eggs myself. It would be fun. They'd see.

A couple hours later I had my centerpiece. Not precisely like the picture in the book, but close enough. I called my friend, a kindergarten teacher, to tell her about the project—at least someone cared—and even suggested it might work for her class. I went to bed a contented woman.

I should have known something was amiss when, in the middle of the night, the dog uncharacteristically whined to be let outside. Twice. When I got up the next morning I was confronted with copious evidence, from the kitchen all the way through the living room, that she desperately needed to be let out not twice but three times. Apparently our furry friend had hoisted herself onto the kitchen table and chosen my salt dough masterpiece as her midnight snack. All that salt dough must have made her thirsty enough to drink buckets of water, which made her have to … well, you know.

After an emergency trip to rent a carpet steam cleaner, I was finally ready to give up. We were not a crafty creative family. And it looked like we would never be.

That night I tossed my mutilated nest and eggs into the garbage. A bit dejected, I pulled out the leftover dough from the refrigerator. I sat down and absentmindedly began squeezing it through my fingers; it was the perfect texture for squishing and squeezing. I pulled out some eggshells I had hollowed earlier in the week, back when my holiday fantasy was still in full force. I sat and waited for inspiration. It didn't come.

"Whatcha doin'?" asked one son on his way through the kitchen.

"Just trying to figure out what to do with this dough, and these eggs." No enthusiastic pitch for his participation. No craft book to wave at him. No agenda.

My son sat down and picked up some dough. "This stuff is neat." I looked up in surprise. He started twisting it into shapes. "We could put crosses in the eggs," he suggested. We tried it, sticking blobs of dough into the two-inch long opening in the side of each egg, and carefully squishing in little dough crosses.

"How about if we twist the different colors of dough together and put the little rope around the eggshell openings?" I suggested, and we did.

"Let's make a base," my son added, fashioning more dough into a rectangular block. "The eggs could go on top."

"Yeah," I said, picking up on his enthusiasm, "we have three eggs, just like the three men who were crucified together, Jesus and the two thieves." We set the three eggs on the base. Next we made a cave of dough to represent Christ's tomb and, as a final touch, we sat a stone next to it to signify the stone that was rolled away.

We stepped back to admire our creation. A good hour had passed with the two of us working side by side, laughing, talking, bonding.

"This is really neat," my son said.

"Yeah," I agreed, meaning more than just the new centerpiece.

The world stopped for a few minutes as we stood gazing at our Easter scene, my arm around my son's shoulder. That moment I was struck anew with God's glorious grace, how he cared enough to take the efforts of an overzealous mom, an apathetic family, and a gluttonous dog, and somehow create something wonderful.

Maybe I couldn't turn us into a picture-perfect family with scripted roles and scripted lines.

Maybe I should stop trying. Maybe this real family—and the unexpected special moments given to us by a loving heavenly father—was even better.

If you're thinking of making an Easter centerpiece of your own, try it, it's fun.

But watch the dog.

Lynn Bowen Walker lives in California with her family.

The Best, Squishiest Salt Dough

1 cup flour
1 T. salad oil
1 cup water
1/2 cup salt
2 t. cream of tartar
Food coloring

Combine all ingredients except food coloring in a saucepan. Cook, stirring over low heat, until mixture thickens. Remove from heat. Knead on floured counter. Add food coloring as desired. When finished, projects can be air-dried.

Dough will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator or freezer.

March/April 2002, Vol. 14, No. 3, Page 32

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