One of my mother’s glorious traditions was the Easter Egg Hunt. I say glorious because my mother was glorious with the creativity and artistic flair for color and form she brought to any celebration – big or small. And the Egg Hunt became quite big, over the years.
We have pictures of the eggs and girls adorning my Grandmother’s Mary Street yard. I, my sister, and our cousin are in our Easter bonnets and matching coats. We are holding our baskets and usually smiling, in various stages of glee and remorse. My best memory is actually the sounds accompanying at least one of these events. I am saying, “I found one!” and as I run through the cool spring-green grass I hear my sister say, “It’s my turn!” What follows is a jumble of let-her-have-it-you-have-enough’s and cries and groans and awwww’s. The pictures cannot catch visual representations of this sordid behavior. But this event was not my Mother’s creation. My clearest memory of her initiative comes years later.
Mom had decided that we were too old for wicker basket sports, so she announced that this would be our last hurrah. I woke that morning and immediately spotted a green plastic egg – in my bedroom! Twisting the halves apart, I wondered how she had managed to put it in my room during the night. I was a notoriously light sleeper. Then all thoughts except “Surprise!” flew into the softly lit morning. A folded piece of paper and 2 or 3 M&M’s fell into my open hand. The paper held a clue! I may have put on slippers and a robe, I can’t remember. I know I started for the stairs as there was a hint about the kitchen, I think, and Mom stood at the bottom. “You have to wait for Bobbi to wake up. Come down and watch TV but don’t look around!” Once again she vastly over-rated my ability to follow directions or curb my curiosity.
After groaning and rolling my eyes, I sat in front of the television and examined the room through slit lids and barely noticeable twists of my head. I thought. There was one egg with mismatched colors (half was blue and the other half yellow – another miracle of the plastic invasion) sitting on the mantle, behind a ceramic basket. When my sleepy sibling finally shuffled down the hall from her downstairs bedroom, I was off the chair like a shot. I was just about to open the lovely blue and yellow ovoid when Mom proclaimed, “your eggs are the solid colors. Put that back!”
“Well, thanks for the warning,” I whispered, just loud enough for her to hear. Bobbi managed to look incredibly sleepy and pouty at the same time. We had skills.
The rest of that morning was one of the best holidays I can remember. The clues were wonderful – and numbered, for us or Mom I do not know. Each egg was a riddle, challenging our ability to interpret metaphor and recall the blueprints of our home. Achieving the end of the search is still a sensory event. I was in our bathroom (upstairs and next to my room, again). The warmth and soft pink of the light was so comforting. Our linen closet was just the upper half of the wall and its double doors opened with white-painted brass knobs. That clean, freshly washed smell met my face as I leaned into the soft piles of folded terry-cloth and spotted the basket in the back corner. There was very little candy in its plastic grass filler, but a gift-wrapped present leaned against the wicker rim. It held a beautiful ceramic statue of St. Francis of Asissi. Tall and slender, the saint’s wreathed head was bent to touch a fawn that melted into his robe. A bird perched on his shoulder. The figures were colored with a brown and green glaze that melted over the forms. It seemed to have been made just for me, and my Mother’s recognition of that overwhelmed me with her love. I told her how much I loved the statue and the treasure hunt, actually in awe of her skill for pleasing even me - the most cynical and irritable member of our family. I don’t know when I gave up St. Francis’s long-treasured, chipped likeness but would love to have it back again.
There was never a second to Mom’s ultimate Easter Morning. It couldn’t be matched if she’d tried. Bobbi and I started to help with the Egg Rolls at church after that. There was always Easter Candy around the house for dinner, sometimes even a bunny or two. The white chocolate was my favorite. Then for many years there were ham dinners and red-beet eggs to eat, and the confections disappeared until…
Grandchildren. Mom and Dad united forces as soon as Bobbi’s daughter Katie could crawl. We started indoors for the first year or two. Then we were outside in the yard – forsythia in full bloom and tufts of garlic grass waving in the breeze. When my son Woody joined the fray we heard the I-saw-it-first’s, and whines, and also the laughter of short people chasing colors and chocolate. The fun even branched out to include the neighbors’ kids. Plastic eggs reappeared while cleaning up the yard in the fall.
Finally, on those brisk spring mornings, Mom had to sit, wrapped in blankets, and referee. She gave audible clues to the underdogs, and ordered the taller hunters to surrender some plunder to the shortest basket bearers. It was a charmed day, really. We often stared in wonder at the children who stopped picking up eggs and took a bumbler’s hand, saying “look – there’s one!” The chocolate was a sidelight after all.