Sunday, April 5, 2009

Not Just Eggs

When I was in the third grade my teacher decided it would be fun for our class to put on an Easter show. This was before all holidays became generic and Halloween celebrations turned into 'fall festivals'. Being one of the tall kids I was stuck in the back row, peering down over the heads of the short kids. It was not such a bad thing to be in the back. No one could tell if you were actually singing or not. Most of the time I was not. Genetics didn't bless me with the ability to carry a tune but the song we sang didn't help the situation. To this day I can still hear the tune and sing the first line: "In your Easter bonnet, with all the frills upon it, you'll be the grandest lady in the Easter parade!"

Those words made no sense to me. Easter had nothing to do with bonnets in my house and I'd never even heard of an Easter parade. Fourth of July parade, yes. Boone County Fair parade, of course (we were in it each year on our 4-H float). But Easter parade? I couldn't imagine, as a ten year old, what floats would even be in an Easter parade.

Coming from a large family we didn't even get Easter baskets. Friends of mine did, so I knew what they were about, but we had a handful of woven wicker baskets, dyed in pastel colors, that were dug out of the basement each spring and handed out to the littlest kids in the family. The bigger kids hid the boiled eggs we had colored the day before. It was all about the game of hide and seek. It had nothing to do with gift filled baskets, bonnets or parades.

The first year we had children old enough to understand holidays Jeff and I had a decision to make. What would Easter be about to our kids? Would it be a large basket full of candy and toys or a quiet day of dipping eggs in colored liquid and later hiding them? It was so tempting to spoil them rotten. More than one year, as a child, I wished for a huge chocolate Easter bunny just so I could bite the ears off first. I didn't want to deprive my kids of that luxury.

Fortunately we didn't have a lot of money in those early years so we couldn't afford anything over the top. I found cute little baskets at the Dollar Store, filled them with plastic grass, one little chocolate bunny each and a few trinket toys. Meredith loved hers. Michael loved his. (they ate the ears first, without even being prompted) But what they loved even more was the egg hunt. For as much as I worried about not getting them the right kind of Easter basket, in the end their favorite part was dying, hiding, then finding the boiled eggs.

The candy was welcome and enjoyed but the memories they made, enjoying this holiday with people they loved, is what stayed with them for years to come. It's the thing I miss about being a kid. Hiding eggs with my siblings, being a part of my family unit. We are spread out all over the country now and just being together for a holiday would be better than any basket, no matter how much chocolate it contained.

I worried that as they grew older my kids would cease to enjoy dying eggs. I have found the opposite to be true. I've cut out magazine articles about neat things you can do to eggs with a bit of dye and every year we pull the "Easter" file out of the cabinet . The kids sort through it and decide what cool thing they will create this year. It is more fun for me too. I don't have to hover over little heads, reminding them not to touch the soaking eggs, wait just a little longer, be sure not to spill the dye. I get to sit back and take pictures, watching them come up with new designs and patterns. From my seventeen year old down to my eight year old, they all create something unique and special. Even my niece, who was visiting us from college, had a blast dying eggs with us this year.

Easter is about baskets and chocolate. But more importantly it's about tradition and family. Getting together with people you love and maybe hiding a few eggs around the yard. This year we will have relatives from New Hampshire here to celebrate with us. I am sure they will be happy to be in the group of 'hiders' then sit back in lawn chairs and watch the little kids scramble to fill up their baskets. Having them here will be the gift. And if they happen to wear bonnets, I won't say a word.

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