Sunday, April 08, 2012

moses, moses, moses

A friend asked me yesterday if I had any Easter traditions and I had to think about it. When I was a kid we didn't always make it to church on Sundays, as Dad was sometimes working, or just wanted to sleep in (and Mom didn't drive back then), but we never missed an Easter service, and I remember looking forward to it, as we would always get a hyacinth or lily to plant in the garden when we got home.

The Ten Commandments
The lotus flower jewelry, the pleated gown, the tasseled pillows — the details are fabulous
The Ten Commandments
Anne Baxter's Nefretiri may be in love with Charlton Heston's Moses, but the real chemistry of this movie is with Yul Brynner's Rameses — hot cha cha

Easter was also a holiday when we would see our relatives, usually traveling. One year we actually got snowed in while visiting our relatives in Long Island — there was a freak April blizzard that year. It was fun to have to "camp in" and wait for the roads to clear.

My Italian grandma would frequently make sfincione at Eastertime, a fabulous, savory family recipe which I have mentioned before.

The Ten Commandments
Yvonne De Carlo as Sephora with Charlton Heston's Moses
The Ten Commandments
As sharp as the HD is, it also really emphasizes all the rear-screen projection, which makes many of the "exteriors" look like collage
When I was ten years old my other grandmother came home from a trip to Russia and the Ukraine with a pysanky kit and I learned how to make beautiful Ukrainian Easter eggs. Off and on through the years I've pulled it out and given it a whirl. I think I learned to draw, or at least do so with a steadier hand, from melting wax and using the stylus that came with the kit, drawing intricate designs on the curved surface of an egg.

When I moved to D.C. from N.Y., my cousin Ann and I created our own Easter traditions. The first few years she made "Lamb of God" for our holiday meal, following the "recipes" from the Bible as closely as possible, down to the bitter herbs and unleavened bread. But as the years went on, we started to favor going out at Easter, and most years would go to a favorite Greek restaurant in Old Town Alexandria, where we could have red-dyed eggs, see a boar roasted on a spit (although I always ordered chicken) and hear great music amid the breaking of plates.

Of course once I had my daughter, Easter egg hunts and dyeing Easter eggs made a reappearance in my life. My daughter and I are fond of attending a local Easter egg hunt, and the Easter Bunny is still making a yearly appearance at our house, but for how much longer I'm not sure.

The Ten Commandments
Moses as the Prince of Egypt — L-R: Yul Brynner, Vincent Price, Charlton Heston and John Derek
The Ten Commandments
Moses as the scourge of Pharoah — Look out Rameses, here comes the burning hail
But it occurred to me last night that as much as my Easter traditions have changed over the years, there has been one constant, one tradition — The Ten Commandments. From the time I was a kid this epic has been played every year on television, and almost every year I have tuned in, if not for the entire movie, for at least a favorite scene or two, or three. There is something ridiculous and endearing and still a little awe-inspiring about this film. The dialogue is beyond stilted, as is a lot of the acting, but the costumes are fabulous, and the parts filmed in Egypt, especially the scenes concerning the building of a temple, are first-rate.

This year we are watching it on a big screen HD television, and as many times as I have seen The Ten Commandments, it is like seeing it with fresh eyes. I keep getting lost in the details — Anne Baxter's jewelry and costumes, the detail of the surfaces and sets, the rear screen projection in exterior scenes, which looks even more obvious in HD. As corny as it can be, it's nice to have The Ten Commandments as my Easter tradition. My daughter even made it to Moses being cast out of Egypt and finding water and Sephora in the desert before she conked out on the couch and I had to walk her into bed. Maybe next year she'll be able to stay awake long enough to see the Red Sea part, or at least some of the plagues.

Happy Easter!


happy easter!

easter without ann
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