I was ten the day my father drove me to pick out a new Easter basket. Thoughts of the perfect basket danced through my mind; bright pink with blue accents, a round basket with a big, loopy handle, perhaps a bow tied to one side. I was excited by all of the possibilities.
“M…I have something to tell you.”
My father and I usually preferred not to talk, both of us are quiet and thoughtful and conversation always seemed unnecessary so I was surprised by his voice.
“I need to tell you that the Easter Bunny isn’t real.”
I was completely shocked, not because I believed whole-heartedly in the mystical rabbit but more because I wanted to believe in a world where the Easter Bunny existed.
“Does that mean Santa Claus isn’t real either?”
“Yes, Darling.” He told me that the gifts that these two characters brought were really gifts from my parents, given out of love. He told me the meaning of the symbols and how they paralleled with Christ but I wasn’t listening. Tears rolled down my cheeks; I tried to hide them, I wanted to be a big girl but the loss of innocence and the disappointment in reality was too much to bear.
My father looked over at me, “Oh, M…”
He knew that this would not be the last time I would awake to a world that was not as I wished and be brokenhearted. He cried with me.
I watch as seven men stroll up to the front of the room, purpose driven and solemn. A father, carrying a beautiful girl with blonde ringlets, makes his way through the congregation to stand with his brethren. They quickly form a circle, right hand extended to touch the girl’s head, left hand resting on their neighbor’s back. The adoption had finally gone through, it is time to make her one of us.
My mind wanders in and out of the blessing. I shush my own precious girl and hand her a book. As I look up I hear the words “I bless you that you will one day find a husband that will provide for you; that you will realize your divine role and become a righteous mother in Zion.”
I am shaken by the words and the image of dark suits pressing down on the girl with the golden curls. I used to believe that each of us had the God-given right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. My reality as a Mormon woman: we are only entitled to those rights inasmuch as our desires run parallel to the expectations of the men who define us. For those who differ, there is little freedom in guilt, isolation, unrequited dreams and doubts of the goodness of God. Bitter tears sting my eyes, I wipe them away and pass my daughter a cheerio.
April 2010, General Conference
I am told that women are important because of their influence on men. That “all women have within their nature both the inherent talent and stewardship to mother.” I hear the command to care, nurture and teach my children, a command that I fulfill every moment of the day but oh, how I wish my husband was given the same directive.
I am grateful for the one woman who confirmed that “women should be women, to be themselves, not babies to be petted and corrected all of the time.” I long for more voices like this and I wonder if women are so important, why aren’t our voices heard?
The dark suits press in, unmenacing but still damaging. They define me in relation to them: I am the diminutive wife, the divine mother, the docile daughter. But my woman soul is none of these things and I am left contemplating the reality of mutilating my spirit as I compress it into the corset of the Mormon feminine ideal.
My heart breaks again but a voice whispers, “Christ will still have you, broken and crumpled. You are not ruined. He will restore all that was lost.”
I searched for the perfect Easter basket for my daughter. I went to store after store but they all looked cheap , devoid of character and completely unworthy to the task of bringing magic into her life.
I went home and pulled out my own Easter basket, the one I had picked all those years ago. It wasn’t the ornate basket of my daydreams, rather it is beautiful only for its simplicity. All of the magic that was lost the day my father revealed truth was captured for me in this basket. This, this, was the perfect basket for my little girl. I gave it to her because I love her, because I want to keep magic alive for her. I want her to believe in goodness but more importantly, I want my daughter to believe in her ability to access goodness and determine her own happiness. And so the cycle repeats.
I hear the crunch through the running water and I dash out of the kitchen to see what has happened. My son is standing with his foot through my Easter basket, the basket I had given his sister, looking satisfied with his act of destruction. I scream at him and he runs into his room as I collapse on the floor in tears.
“My basket…” I whisper as I turn it over in my hands. It is not ruined but it will never be the same. It is almost as if I can feel some of the magic seeping out of it and I mourn the loss.
I console myself with the thought that the basket now better represents reality…that we are all broken but not ruined. It works for me.
But I worry for my daughter.