Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Hoppin' Down the Bunny Trail

Or Memory Lane.


It's hard to anticipate when those bouts of nostalgia are going to hit.  A song, a smell, a stranger's look - any of those things, and many more, can send me traveling through time faster than a TARDIS.  Today's protagonist?

These little basket fillers - which should have never caught my eye, nestled as they were among the other, arguably more appealing treats - sent me back to days of Easter bonnets with thin elastic chin straps and dainty little white gloves.  Easter weekend was spent with my aunt and uncle and cousins out of town, and that was very wonderful as well, but that is another story for another day.  Today's story - the warm happy place those foil wrapped eggs took me - is about the week before Easter.

My dad's family was large - he was the eighth of nine children and there were cousins that spanned two decades.  It seems to me, now, that it must have been hard to pull a family of that size together, but we did so regularly and very very happily.  At least that is my recollection.  We would always gather at my grandmother's house - the homestead.  It was small.  So, so, small.  I tell you that as an adult, because I know it to be true.  As a child, however, I never never never perceived it as even remotely less than adequate.  It was more than big enough to hold all of our joys, all of our concerns, all of our traditions.

Our Easter tradition - as I recall it -was twofold.  It involved coloring eggs and then hunting for those little Hershey's eggs, wrapped in pastel foil and hidden in the attic by - well - I don't know who.  Let's just presume it was The Bunny and get on with it.  But I've gotten a little ahead of myself.  First we colored the eggs. No Paas tablets for us - we used food coloring and vinegar - swirling them to make fabulous random colorful designs.  Each of the cousins - and maybe some of the aunts and uncles, too, I can't be sure - would color a dozen eggs.  We would all put them on the same baking racks, then we would be sent off to our egg hunt while they dried.  Maybe it hadn't always run so smoothly - I was among the younger of my cousins - by the time I was participating they had it arranged so that there was very little down time wherein children might become bored and whiny.

Off we would be herded to the attic - the older cousins leaving some of the chocolates in plain sight for the younger ones.  The attic was small - as you would presume the attic of a very small house would be - and the cousins were plentiful - but we never got in each other's way and the distribution of eggs always seemed pretty fair.  Sometimes, as we got a little older, we would muse on the fact that our fathers - four brothers - all shared this attic as a bedroom.  Even by Easter it was hot up there.  Yet we never - not then - thought, "how awful for them".  We - I, at least - always thought they were lucky to be so close.  I imagined them talking about whatever boys talked about long into the night.  This was the only night of the year I ever entered that attic and I always left it with the voices of the ghosts of the boys who had grown into the men who were gathered downstairs lingering in my consciousness.

We would all have to count our eggs when we came downstairs, and the one with the most eggs would get a prize:  a quarter.  The prize was small so that we didn't become ridiculously competitive over it. I learned in later years that it was really just an excuse to do an egg count.  If the amount of eggs we collected didn't match the amount of eggs distributed, an older cousin was sent back up until they were all found.  I imagine you don't let too many chocolate eggs in the hot attic for too long before figuring out that accountability is a good idea.

When the chocolate eggs had all been collected and accounted for, we gathered once again around the table - this time with an empty egg crate.  We would go around the table - each choosing an egg in turn to fill our crates.  Sometimes we got the eggs we had colored, sometimes we did not.  Gentle lessons were learned.  Sometimes you had your eye on an egg and someone else claimed it before it was your turn.  Other times, you got the most beautiful egg on the table and you hadn't even been the one to color it.  Small disappointments counterbalanced with small victories.  Little lessons that would translate well in the big world.

All that and chocolate eggs, to boot.

I haven't thought about that tradition in years.

I don't even usually like those darn eggs.

But I bet I'm going to enjoy the heck out of this bag. 

I know some of my cousins will read this - my mom will read this - and perhaps it will not match their recollection.  That's cool.  This is my memory.  If theirs is different, it takes nothing away from mine.  Oh - and if any of them would like to share their reminiscences?  That would be absolutely spectacular...

1 comment:

Blissed-Out Grandma said...

Nice story...I like the fact that you got some good lessons out of the experience. Can't say the same for our traditions, they were much more limited in scope. Happy Easter!