Walking through our local Target store the week before Easter was akin to being an Oompa Loompa. I felt small as I walked through the canyon-like aisles of brightly colored Easter candy, baskets, fake grass, and stuffed toys. Small, and solidly in midlife. In what seems like a second ago, I was buying Cadbury eggs and Paas egg dying kits for my kids who are now adults. And, perhaps a minute before that, I was the kid eagerly awaiting Easter morning and the basket of goodies hidden somewhere in our farmhouse. But thatâ€™s where the story/memory goes a little dark. One year, the Easter Bunny forgot me. No, thatâ€™s not entirely accurate. To be more specific the Easter Bunny punished me.
The details are sketchy. Typically the day before Easter Mom would let us dye a couple of dozen hard-boiled eggs fresh from our neighborâ€™s farm.
It was a joyous, albeit messy, project. I still remember using the super-cool wax crayon that magically made designs despite the dye. Â I also recall the challenge of dying small parts of the egg so it would be multi-colored. The wire â€œdipperâ€ inevitably bent at an odd angle and allowed the egg to splash back into the cup of dye.
One of us kids would also sneak a fresh, un-boiled, egg into the dye as well. It was meant to be a surprise for the recipient when we played the egg-bashing challenge on Easter Sunday. (One of my brothers and I would each select an egg from our baskets and then, on the count of three, crash them together. One egg usually smashed and the other didnâ€™t. The un-smashed egg was considered the winner. The dyed raw egg was always the wild card and a perennial favorite prank.)
Iâ€™m not sure what I was–or wasnâ€™t–doing, but somehow I was on my momâ€™s last nerve that year. She told me if I didnâ€™t â€œstraighten upâ€ the Easter Bunny would not be hopping in my direction. What? Â No! Â The Easter Bunny was a happy, hoppy, benevolent soul. He didnâ€™t judge the antics and pre-Easter high-energy excitement of children, did he? PFFFT.
Bedtime arrived, and I was excited. As I stared at the ceiling in my little upstairs room, I wondered what toy and candy goodies would be in my basket. Stuffed toys were always welcomed in my bedroom menagerie.
My brothers and I were expected to stay in our beds on Easter morning until Mom or Dad called us downstairs. Then the hunt was on. Somewhere a basket with our name on it was hidden, and it was great fun to discover its whereabouts.
Easter morning. The spring air was still chilly, so I kept the bed covers up tight around my neck. When will they call us down?Â I heard my brothers moving in their room, so they were ready too. Then, a creak of a door.
â€œAll right. You can come on down and look for your baskets.â€
There was a mad scramble as we jostled for space and speed on the narrow stair steps. Down, down, down. Delights were waiting! It wasnâ€™t long before each of my brothers had their basket, but I couldnâ€™t find mine. I looked and looked and looked. My younger brotherâ€™s basket, in particular, overflowed with goodies, and I was perplexed. Where was my basket?
Finally, with watery eyes, I asked for help from Mom and Dad. Could they give me a hint? Mom looked at me sternly. â€œI told you yesterday that if you couldnâ€™t behave the Easter Bunny would not leave you a basket. See what happens when you are naughty?â€
The reality of not getting a single jelly bean, a boiled egg to smash, or a chocolate bunny sank in and filled me with deep sadness. Â Dad would not meet my eyes as I watched my brothers disassemble their baskets into piles of goodies. Â I felt empty. Bad. Bewildered. But, I did not cry. I would not cry. If Mom and the Easter Bunny were in cahoots, so be it.
Iâ€™ve never forgotten that childhood Easter, obviously. It taught me a lot about love and being lovable. It taught me about actions and consequences even if I was too young to understand. It taught me shame and humiliation and the unbearableness of being me.
Last week as I walked through the aisles at Target, I observed parents carefully selecting gifts for their childrenâ€™s Easter baskets.Â Â Somehow it felt like a â€œdo-over,â€ and was the best part of my day.