Friday, March 21, 2008

The evolution of the Easter egg

Don't be scared. This is not some scientific treatise on the Easter egg. It's just a bunch of random thoughts about how times have changed for this holiday tradition, specifically in my life.

Remember way, way back when moms would bring a dozen or so eggs out of the refrigerator, along with one of those special kits with little images of bunnies or Easter lilies that could be transferred onto brightly colored eggs? Hopefully someone remembered to boil the eggs first, but then we'd spread colored dye from one end of the kitchen to the other trying to create the perfect eggs to fill those baskets that the Easter bunny left on Easter morning. There was an artistic satisfaction to the creation of those eggs.

Then, in later years I joined friends every Easter, arriving early in the morning to hide eggs for their five children. By that time, plastic eggs were starting to be in vogue, eggs filled with candy or money, and hidden in such a way to keep the kids hunting for hours while the traditional Easter ham baked in the oven. We still tucked a few dyed eggs around the yard, but that had turned into a risky business since we couldn't count on the kids finding them or us remembering where we'd put them.

About that same time, an old friend in Virginia had little kids of her own. Not only did she do the whole Easter egg thing in style, but she'd dip her fingers in flour and leave "bunny tracks" through the house for her girls, leading them to eggs and hidden treasures.

In a fit of nostalgia maybe ten years ago, while visiting my dad, my cousin and I decided we absolutely had to dye Easter eggs. We ran around to every store in town --all five or so of them -- looking for an Easter egg coloring kit or even some food coloring. Nothing. On the eve of Easter, the shelves were bare. Back at the house, disappointed, we told my dad where we'd been. He simply shook his head, walked into the kitchen, opened a cupboard and handed us food coloring. Trust me, it had been there for a very, very long time, but the stuff did the trick. Our eggs weren't fancy, but they were bright and cheery. And he, of course, got to gloat that he'd had that dye all along.

A couple of years ago my goddaughter was visiting here in Florida around Easter, just in time for the annual Easter egg hunt on the village green. We took her two sons over there. While the oldest, who was about 10 at the time, gathered with others his age awaiting the start of the hunt for that age group, the rest of us waited with the one-year-old for his "hunt." It was especially aimed at toddlers. Parents were advised to stay outside the circle, where dozens of plastic eggs and small toys had been scattered for easy retrieval by the tiniest hunters. Within seconds of the official start, parents were on their hands and knees grabbing everything in sight, ruining the event for the kids and for the few parents -- my goddaughter and her husband among them -- actually trying to follow the rules. It was one of the most offensive scenes I've ever witnessed with adults pitted against toddlers, leaving many in tears. The next day we staged another hunt in my apartment to give the kids a fair chance to win a few prizes and find a few eggs.

The last time I tried to decorate a few eggs in the Easter tradition, it was ... Christmas. What, you've never heard of Christmas eggs? It was part of a joke gift for a friend this past holiday season, brightly colored red and green eggs with Merry Christmas, Mark written on them in crayon, along with a bit of decorative holly. I even took one to my breakfast place on Christmas morning to wish the cook/owner a happy holiday, mainly because he'd thought I was insane when I told him what I was doing. He's probably still a little uncertain about my mental health.

At any rate, with Easter almost here, I couldn't help thinking about the old days with parents and kids, eggs and a messy kitchen. The plastic eggs filled with treats may be easier, they may last from year to year (in fact, I think there may be one or two rolling around under my sofa even now), but it's just not the same.

None of this, of course, has a thing to do with the meaning of this holiday in a religious context. It is, however, all about tradition. I wish we were a little more intent on passing that along to our kids, spending that little bit of extra time with them, indulging their creativity, mess or no mess. Think about it next year when you're about to buy another bag of colorful plastic eggs for the kids' Easter baskets. Give them the gift of your time instead.

Meantime, I wish you all the true joy of this season.
Sherryl Woods

Labels: ,

Add to Technorati Favorites