When I was a young girl, I often came home from school to find my mother standing in the living room at her ironing board, a cigarette in hand, and the television playing her favorite (and if I recall correctly, only) soap opera, As the World Turns.
Vicki Doudera here. I myself never really got hooked on soaps, even in the eighties when many of my friends were addicted to the latest twists and turns in the saga of Luke and Laura, two of the favorite characters on All My Children. Of course I’ve seen a few, and one thing they all seem to share are shifting loyalties. Put simply, the characters’ relationships change with the flick of a channel. They’re a fickle bunch, these soap opera folks, and just when you think you know who’ll stand by whom, the plot reverses. Old alliances are broken, new bonds are formed.
The day I equate with extreme fickle flip-floppedness (to coin my own tongue-twister of a term) was yesterday, recognized as Palm Sunday by most of the Christian world. The day marks Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem, astride a donkey and cheered by the multitudes waving palm branches and yelling “Hosanna,” a term of rejoicing. Picture the Patriots’ Superbowl Championship parade in Boston with JC as a bearded Tom Brady in sandals, and you’ve got the idea.
Accounts of the event are pretty clear that the masses lining the dusty roads saw Jesus as a hero, and yet, five days later those same fans would be calling for his execution. This story line is to me what makes Palm Sunday so chilling: the mood is exultant, and yet we all know what’s coming. This story isn’t going to change. Any joy is fleeting and it won’t be long before those palm branches are ground into dust.
I recently finished a wonderful book called Euphoria, by a fellow Mainer, Lily King. It’s extremely well-written and meticulously plotted, and although it’s not crime fiction, I highly recommend it.
In it, there’s a character who returns unexpectedly and is given a hero’s welcome, with night after night of revelry, dining and drink, but after several days the crowd starts to turn. In church yesterday, that scene from the book came to mind, and I wondered if it’s in the very nature of crowds to be fickle. Are we like a school of fish, swimming together happily in one direction, and then suddenly veering en masse toward a new clump of coral?
The crime writer in me sees the drama in reversals. A happy parade is just a happy parade. But take that procession and, instead of building toward an even happier conclusion, make things start to sour. Something rotten in the state of Denmark – or, Jerusalem. People muttering in their market stalls, Pharisees plotting behind closed doors. Make a trusted advisor turn traitor. Things get dark, so dark that it seems there will never be light again. A horrible death. The grief of friends, the anguish of a mother. The bitter end of a story… or is it?
Easter Sunday gives yet another plot twist, probably one of the world’s most famous and unfathomable. Life arising from death – not the end of the story, but the beginning. Hard to beat that as a revelation, right? But then I think back to those afternoons with the smell of spray starch hanging in the air, mingling with the scent of cigarette smoke, and I hear the strains of As the World Turns, and I’m guessing the writers on that soap may have tried some form of resurrection as well. (The character in a coma comes to mind. Or – the ones you knew had died – and yet – they’re ba-a-a-a-a-k!)
Whatever your personal beliefs, I hope you are touched by the miraculous this week, something special and spiritual, whether it comes from a soap opera, a bouquet of daffodils, or the smile of a neighbor. Happy Easter, Happy Passover, and Happy Spring!