Finding the Good in the Sad

by Staci Troilo

First, an announcement. Soon you will have to type the address: https://stacitroilo.wordpress.com to access my site. This will only be temporary while I am in the process of switching over to a new host. Please make note of this change. I’m sorry for the inconvenience, and I hope it won’t be a lengthy one. Now, on to this week’s post.

Yesterday was Palm Sunday. For Catholics, it’s the day the Passion is read at Mass. As a kid, I always had such trouble just listening to that gospel reading, let alone participating in it. Then when I was an adult, I watched Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ. Now I really have trouble getting through that gospel. It really makes me feel completely…well, unworthy is the only word that comes to mind, but it really doesn’t come close.

But I have other, happier associations with Palm Sunday, too. For one thing, I was born on Palm Sunday. Not on the thirteenth, but on a Palm Sunday, waaaay back in 1971. I don’t remember that day, but I’m pretty happy about it, nonetheless.

Palm Sunday crossesBut my favorite memories of Palm Sundays gone by are the tying of the palm crosses. When I was little, my grandfather would come to our house and take all of our palm fronds and tie them into crosses for us. We would then have one for our bedrooms for a whole year, until the following year, when we would get a new one to replace it. (Most churches collect old palm before Lent starts and burn it for the ashes that they use for Ash Wednesday.) I remember him teaching me that the palm was special—it was blessed by the priest—so if I dropped it, I had to kiss it. As he tied the crosses, I scrambled to pick up any little pieces that fell and put them in a pile to be buried or burned. He taught me that was the only way to properly dispose of the blessed palm. He taught me so many things.

I loved being his little helper.

When I got a little older, he taught me how to make the crosses myself. It took me a few years to finally memorize the process, because there weren’t that many to tie. It’s not that complicated once you get it, but you don’t have many to learn with. It starts with a series of folds to anchor the knot in the center, then there are a series of loops to make the post and the cross pieces. Finally, a set of two tiny loops hold the middle together. I finally mastered it in 1985. No one else in my family ever took the time to learn it.

My grandfather died in February of 1986. He never tied another cross. I still have the last one we made together. It’s pretty delicate, but I don’t want to let it go.

I don’t have grandchildren yet, but I do have children, and I’m trying to teach them how to tie the crosses. I think it’s important to pass the traditions along while I’m still here to enjoy sharing my time with them. I’ve already taught my niece, I even taught my husband, and my kids are learning. My son actually did really well this year. My daughter isn’t doing too badly, but she actually is more interested in tying crowns of thorns. She saw one on television once, and has been doing her own version ever since. Maybe she’ll start her own tradition of tying crowns of thorns with her kids. It doesn’t matter to me. Right now, at least we’re all together, at Mass and afterward, as a family.

The gospel is such a tragic—albeit necessary—part of Palm Sunday. It’s nice to have some good memories to add to the day as well.

For Writers:
Fiction is nothing without conflict. Is there something in your WIP that has a negative connotation? Can you think of a way to add an activity and put a positive spin on it?

For Everybody:
Are you having this issue in your WIP? Did you do anything for Palm Sunday? Let’s talk about it.

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15 Comments Add yours

  1. Staci this post brought back memories of palm sunday mass and desperately wanting my own palm cross. Being in a big catholic family of nine kids we rarely got our own. Beautiful tradition with your grandfather. Something you could write as a heartfelt memory into a story. In my novel my hero remembers a ghastly lesson of when his grandfather taught him how to skin a rabbit. It was not a good experience for him at the age of five, but as he aged he understood his grandfather was a resiliant old man teaching him all the things he had learned as child. These little back pieces of a story are what make a character come alive. I hope your easter is a special one and your grandfather will always be with you.

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    1. Staci Troilo says:

      These are the kinds of memories that pop up in my fiction. Little things that people don’t really think of, but that give the characters richness and dimension. It sounds like your character has an interesting memory of his own, but in reality, one that could prove quite useful. Happy Easter to you and yours.

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  2. Joe says:

    Staci, I was talking about this with some family members during Palm Sunday breakfast after Mass about how none of us knows how to tie the crosses from the palms anymore. Everyone in my Nonna’s generation did it, and now that tradition has faded. We should have paid closer attention!

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    1. Staci Troilo says:

      It is sad that we lose things when we don’t take the time to learn when we have the chance. If you send me a message using the contact form, I can email you a powerpoint presentation that I put together for my sister. It has instructions on how my family makes the crosses. I can’t guarantee that it’s the same way yours does, and it might be confusing if you’ve never seen it done, but it might be enough to get you close to what your family used to do. In any event, I hope you and your family have a blessed Holy Week, Joe.

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  3. P. C. Zick says:

    I remember the palm fronds from my Michigan Methodist Palm Sundays. I just read a book set in Florida where a family made a business of sending palm fronds to churches in the north for Palm Sunday. I never thought about where those came from in my youth, but for sure they didn’t come from Detroit. I always liked the day–it emanated hope to me. In my writing, as in life, I like to be sure that I always find the good in the sad; otherwise there is no point.

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    1. Staci Troilo says:

      It’s great that you can find the good in the sad things. You’re right; there’s no point otherwise. And how cool is it that you found a family who sells palm? I always look for interesting careers for my fiction… that certainly qualifies! Have a great Holy Week, P. C.!

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  4. One of our usual family Palm Sunday traditions is the making of Cumbrelle the Saturday before. Last year I went to my grandmothers and made them with her that Saturday morning and shared that recipe with my family. This year I was asked to help a friend teach her Girl Scout troop how to make Easter Bread. I had a teriffic day. The girls were very interested in learning and asked several questions. At the end of the extra long meeting everyone had baked their own loaf of bread. The girls were given a copy of the recipe to take home and my friend and I were able to share our Easter traditions with a group of young ladies who were enthusiastic about learning. Several of the girls added that they were going to make the Easter bread the following week for their family dinner. I was honored that my friend asked me to share something so special. Although I did not make the Palm Sunday Cumbrelle cookie this year for may family, I have a created a lasting memory with a lovely bunch of young ladies.

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    1. Staci Troilo says:

      That’s such a great story, Michele. Even though you didn’t get to celebrate your own tradition this year, you helped so many others create a lasting memory, maybe even start traditions of their own. I don’t think you could ask for more than that. Thanks for sharing.

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  5. Stacy Claflin says:

    Thanks for sharing! We never celebrated Palm Sunday when I was growing up, but it’s something we do now in our church. I think that it’s special to start traditions like that with kids because I have a hard time connecting with the holiday as an adult.

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    1. Staci Troilo says:

      It isn’t an easy holiday to feel warm-and-fuzzy about, that’s for sure. But if you can find something positive to associate with it, then you can start to make wonderful memories for the day. Hope you have a great Holy Week, Stacy.

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      1. Stacy Claflin says:

        Thanks, Staci. You too!

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Mae Clair says:

    What a beautiful post. It brings back memories of Palm Sundays when my family was all together at mass, and then afterward. Sadly, many of them are gone now. My mother and I used to attend Passion Thursday services as well and the Stations of the Cross on Good Friday. It was such a beautiful moving and spiritual experience. Thanks for sharing your traditions, Staci.

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    1. Staci Troilo says:

      I’m so glad this post could bring back good memories for you. Remember, our loved ones are never truly gone if we carry them with us. Have a blessed Easter!

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  7. Joan says:

    Staci – I love how you share your family traditions here and the importance of family togetherness. I think that is lacking in so many families these days. Thinking of you on this blessed Holy Week.

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    1. Staci Troilo says:

      Thanks Joan. I feel traditions are so vital, and they seem to be getting lost in today’s world. That’s why I write about them so much in my blog, and that’s why family relationships play such an important role in my fiction. I’ll be thinking of you this Holy Week, as well.

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