If we were close friends in college, you know that sometime in mid-February a Facebook message will arrive from Ian Gackowski. This year’s read like this:

This makes year seven of me sending this Easter message to most of you.
That’s nearly two presidencies.
That’s an entire educational career at Hogwarts.
That’s almost like going to and graduating from college TWICE!

Once again, it is time to overeat, dance around a bon fire, and run down a big sand pit. It’s time to nap. It’s time to binge eat. It’s time to look cute in front of Jeptha Lake. It’s time to get nostalgic. It’s time to get weird.

Day: Saturday, April 4th
Time: Whenever

Because the majority of my friends from college came from outside West Michigan, Easter weekend was always spent at the nearby Gackowski family property. This little oasis is complete with lake, walking trails, front porch, yard for Frisbee, hill for bonfire, and home-cooked food on every horizontal surface at any hour of the day. The Mrs. G chocolate balls are particularly noteworthy: Giradelli chocolate filled with some sort of magical Oreo and cream cheese concoction we dream about all year. The Gackowski home is also located walking distance from a giant sandpit, the purpose of which I have never fully understood, but which we have climbed and played in ever since we first saw it as college freshman. We’ve wondered when the year will come that we don’t all gladly embrace our inner child in exchange for spending the rest of the day shaking sand out of our shoes. This year most of us are twenty-five years young.

We respond to Ian’s Facebook message using various emoticons to express our excitement for year seven or our regret to miss a valued tradition. Emily trumps us all when she sends the expressions of her six-week-old baby boy. We’ve traded out attendees over the years, as boyfriends, girlfriends, and siblings have made appearances. And in the post-college years, new homes, jobs, marriages and growing families have made the holiday reunion less practical.

This year, I am in Michigan for Easter weekend. Yes, because my teaching career has blessed me with the entire week off and my boyfriend lives in Michigan, but also because there is nowhere I would rather spend holy Saturday than at the Gackowskis. Don’t tell anyone this, but last year, the one year I did not attend, I dreamed of being in middle-of-nowhere-Michigan while wandering the beautiful streets of the El Barrio district in Barcelona. It didn’t help that on Easter morning I woke to a wave of social media posts, my friends laughing in that certain slant of midwestern light, their expressions proving once again that these friendships are worth the regular re-visiting.

This year, Meghan asks if I brought my camera. I brought my film camera, and stay tethered to my iPhone so that this year I can be the one to post the photos. And as much as I want to live an in-the-moment life like the Banksy “this is not a photo opportunity” stencil, I cannot deny that I am a slave to the ‘gram. All day, my phone in my pocket screams “document this!” while the sun whispers, “Look around you.”

By midnight I’ve posted four times, which is bordering on new-mom level. Ian’s Instagram is perfectly captioned, “Happy Easter from my sandpit family to yours” and I envy his diction. Jesse, who couldn’t make it this year, Facebook-messages us that he “appreciated the Insta updates.”

In Steve’s truck on the way home, I can see the stars. It crosses my mind that I couldn’t capture them on an iPhone if I tried, and it’s good that there are still a few things that fall into this category. We’re playing the new Death Cab album and I realize that another thing that hasn’t changed in seven years is that Ben Gibbard still has the ability to express what I cannot:

Oh come my love and swim with me
Out in this vast Binary Sea
Zeros and ones patterns appear
They’ll prove to all that we were here
For if there is no document
We cannot build our monument
So look into the lens and
I’ll make sure this moment never dies

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