Val stared at the spring-green, cellophane wrapped basket. She adjusted the pre-manufactured ribbon twist tied to the top. The cellophane crinkled as she rotated the basket to inspect the contents. Sidewalk chalk, a small football, jelly beans, bubbles, and a sparse scattering of chocolate eggs. It would have to do.
She should be grateful she had a basket for Josh. If it hadn’t been for the generous tipper at the diner yesterday, she wouldn’t have been able to get anything for Josh’s sixth Easter. A single mom with a minimum wage job didn’t allow extravagant surprises for her only son.
Josh will love it. Val’s eyes brightened. He had to be the easiest kid. He was definitely the light of her life.
She carefully hid the basket at the back of her closet and checked her watch. Julia would bring him home soon, and she didn’t want to spoil the surprise.
Heading into the kitchen, she opened the utensil drawer with a clatter and grabbed out the can opener. She’d heat the last can of no brand Spaghettios for him. He’d be hungry and he loved them. She sliced an apple and poured a glass of chocolate milk, setting it at their small table just in time to hear the front door burst open.
“We’re home!” Julia joined Val in the kitchen and set a paper plate filled with decorated Easter cookies on the counter. “Josh decorated these.”
Val smiled, and embraced Julia. “Thanks for taking him. Did he have fun?” She admired the plate of cookies. Colorful frosting oozed off the sides of the cookies. Each one was piled high with candies and sprinkles. They smelled like a bag of freshly opened jelly beans.
“He sure did. I wish you could have come too. It was a great Bible study.”
“Yeah.” The mention of Bible study erased Val’s grin. “Maybe next time.” She busied herself looking for napkins and straws.
“Mommy! Look what I made!” Josh collided into his mom’s lap as she crouched at the bottom drawer. His weight threw her off balance and she hugged him close. She kissed the top of his light brown hair. He smelled like happiness and sunshine.
He looked up at her with his big brown eyes. “I made a picture about Easter.”
He unrolled his crayon drawing. Instead of eggs and bunnies, Val was shocked to see Josh drew Jesus hanging from the cross. He’d even added drops of red blood in places. On Jesus’ head. On his feet and wrists.
“Can I hang it on the fridge?”
“Sure.” Val stood, wondering what they were teaching him at church. She knit her eyebrows. Why did the lessons have to include blood? Wasn’t there enough violence in the world?
“Well, I’m off.” Julia gave Josh a fist bump and left.
“Thanks again.” Val closed the door after Julia disappeared down the apartment hallway.
She’d have to help her son see the positive side of Easter herself.
Josh went crazy over his Easter basket. He’d even shared half his chocolate eggs. Val popped one into her mouth and snuck the rest back under the stiff green grass in the basket.
“Lets go outside and do chalk!”
Val scooped up Josh and the chalk and ran down the stairs with her son over her shoulder. He giggled the whole way.
They filled the sidewalk along the quiet side of the apartment building with every Easter graphic imaginable. Colorful eggs, bunnies by the dozen, tufts of grass and baby chicks. Val was happy until she noticed Josh drawing Jesus on the cross again. Large and in the middle of their happy scene.
“Baby, why add a sad picture to a happy one?”
Josh squinted as he carefully added red dots. “It’s not sad.”
“Honey, you drew blood. It is sad.”
Josh stopped drawing and looked up. “Miss Mandy taught us if Jesus didn’t get bloody on the cross, it would have to be you and me up there. I don’t want to draw you up there mommy.”
Tears pricked the corner of Val’s eyes.
“Want to pray the way Mandy teached me?”
Josh grabbed Val’s hand in his. “Dear Jesus. We do bad things, but you still love us. Thank you for dying on the cross. Amen.”
He kissed his mom’s cheek and got back to his drawing.
“Amen.” Val picked up a red piece of chalk and helped her son finish the picture.
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