Laura's mom cooked an Easter dinner that Laura and her sister Susan like a lot: fried chicken, potato salad, black-eyed peas with bacon and chili sauce, and strawberry shortcake for desert. Goodbye, Dr. Atkins, hello country goodness. And when all were seated, mom said the Easter blessing: 'Dear God,' she said over the steaming dishes, 'please let us hear no more of that Passion movie.' A nice blessing, especially from a 75-year-old ex-librarian with a fine sense of justice and a low tolerance for nonsense. In keeping with the tone already set, we then proceeded to discuss politics, and mother announced that her ultra-right-wing cousin who'd voted Republican since Eisenhower had just declared that he'd vote to oust Bush if it's the last thing he'll do. Nor was he the only defector from her generation, which had lived through the Depression and the Second World War with impeccable patriotism. We moved on to presidents from the past, and she recalled a time during the Louisiana maneuvers of 1939 when Dwight Eisenhower sat down to play poker with some locals at the Ruston General Store and took all their money. And around the same time, families used to write their names on a bulletin board downtown if they wanted to have soldiers over for Sunday dinner. At her house, there were four soldiers every Sunday, some of them from as far as New York, and the discussions were interesting. Dinner over, we moved to the kitchen counter for coffee. I picked up a book Laura's sister brought over, called English Eccentrics by Edith Sitwell, and I ended up reading more than I meant to because a jar of the chicken grease flew off near the sink and splattered in all directions, ruining in the process some nice Easter clothes. I felt bad about it as the women bustled about cleaning up the grease with chemical agents, but there was still an Easter feeling about it, something ineffably sweet and goofy. Even the electricity contributed for a minute or two by flickering on and off in advance of a coming storm. It was all both very proper and non-traditional, and I have only two words to say to Mel Gibson: 'Grow up!' Easter should be about peace. And to everyone else I say, 'Please vote!' because I want to endorse Laura's mom's shrewd political instincts and her terrific fried chicken.

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