There is no state religion in Zembla, as Zembla is a godless and spiritually barren land. Still, Zembla still sympathizes with Catholicism out of family loyalties and nostalgia, plus it's no stupider than any other religion. Much less stupider than a lot of them, in fact. I mean, come on, Wicca? Please, dude.
Anyway, Easter is probably the number one holiday around these parts, combining family togetherness and gluttony with surreal traditions like the dyeing and hunting of eggs. It lacks the commercialism and gift-buying stress of Christmas, the revisionist Pilgrim-Native-American-friendship history of Thanksgiving, the fascist jingoism of Independence Day, the smug botanical arrogance of Arbor Day. The only holiday with a higher percentage of edible celebratory items is Thanksgiving, and Easter has significantly more chocolate, as well as a near-absence of yams.
Several years ago, my family attended a brunch with our relatives to the near south, at a place called the Circus Club, a name that would take on unanticipated significance later. I was nattily dressed in my Easter best, a green plaid shirt, slacks, and my beloved blue Vans when we arrived at my uncle's house, excited at the prospect of family togetherness and all-we-could-eat breakfast fare. Before we could depart for the club, however, my uncle looked at my outfit with dismay.
The Circus Club required young men to wear ties and jackets. I had to find appropriate apparel in my uncle's closet before gaining entry to the Club, and its buffet full of delicious eggs and hash browns. Showing a droll sense of humor I was not yet aware of at the time, my uncle presented me with an over-sized tan jacket, along with a red tie. I put them on, and we headed out to the Club.
When I got out of the minivan, my sisters got their first look at my ill-matched outfit. Green plaid, red tie, blue shoes, ill-fitting, clashing sport coat. Sister Kelly was the first to vocalize what everyone else was thinking.
"You look like a clown."
Immediately, my cheeks went red, adding to my comical appearance. Still, there were brunch waiting inside, and I am always willing to swallow my pride if I can also swallow many platefuls of hash browns. We stepped inside, and many eyes looked amusedly at me. Despite the name, the Circus Club was not actually a big top-themed place, except for a harlequin figure making balloon animals for the kids. Everyone else was in clothing that, while perhaps not Easter Best, was a whole lot Easter Better than my ensemble.
My sisters could not help chuckling when they caught glances at my outfit, or my pained expression. It only got worse when a throng of children approached our table, under the impression that I too would be making balloon animals and performing pratfalls for them. I wanted to run back out to the parking lot, either to our car or even a small Volkswagen Bug impossibly full of young men dressed like me, but instead, I headed for the breakfast meats, ignoring the amused glances and the calliope music.
Back at the table, I accidentally spilled ice water all over the front of my shirt. I also dropped bacon into my lap. My sisters were in near-hysterics. Suddenly, the other patrons stopped staring. This wasn't a clown, they realized. This was a mentally challenged young man, allowed to dress himself for the holiday. Maybe he was going to spill food all over himself, maybe he didn't realize that red and green plaid didn't match, and maybe he was unaware that he was muttering "Hash browns" under his breath like some kind of Zen mantra. But it was Easter, dammit, and though he probably couldn't hunt eggs nor successfully grasp the beautiful mystery of Our Lord's resurrection, he had as much damn right to gorge himself on scrambled eggs, free from curious glances, as the rest of the Circus Club folk.
I lifted my fork awkwardly to my sisters and cried, "Happy Easter, everybody!" Then I went for more potatoes.
A few months later, we got an excited phone call from our aunt. All of the Keane sisters were featured in the cover photo of the annual Circus Club newsletter. Brother Bozo was not pictured.