Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Easter Sunday by Meg Austen

There are always a few childhood memories that linger for a lifetime. For me, it was camping and campfires, growing up on the Mojave Desert, and air shows.

So when the local radio advertised the upcoming air show featuring the Blue Angels, I excitedly called my younger brother and asked if he and his wife would like to join me and my kids.

"I've never been to an air show. Have you?"

Ah. With eleven years between us, my kid brother and I grew up in different families together. By the time he'd come along, we didn't go camping, we didn't live on the Mojave Desert, and we didn't attend air shows.

But as a parent, this was an awakening for me. I was just beginning to grasp the importance of family traditions. Ask me if I remember ever being at an air show or going camping and I'd have to stand there and stare dumbly into space. Nope, I just have this vague sense of well-being at the thought.

Like the aquarium I had as a child and so desperately missed when I married and moved away from home. That is, until the day I brought home an entire aquarium setup and didn't have the foggiest idea what to do with it. It was only then that my general sense of well-being came into clearer focus. Ah. It wasn't me that had an aquarium. It was my kid brother. I was just an observer of the soothing effects of the bubbles and the graceful movements of the fish he owned.

With my own children, them being eighteen months apart, and me a single-parent, I figured family traditions and fond memories were entirely up to me.

So we attended air shows, went camping, had large, expensive birthday parties, Easter egg hunts, scratch-baked Christmas cookies, and a Christmas tree overflowing with gifts each year. I sewed costumes when needed. And each Christmas I set up the camcorder and recorded every painful moment of us sitting in front of the tree tearing through Christmas gifts that I would painstakingly try to capture on paper for the thank you cards that would sometimes be written, but more often not, as the list of gifts would get lost in the massive heaps of crumpled gift wrap never to be seen again.

So this year, as Easter approached, my daughter and I were perusing the aisles of the local grocery store when we passed the PAAS display of boxed dye for Easter eggs.

"Are you two interested in dying eggs this year?"


"Really? No Easter egg hunt?" mind you, her brother is closer to getting drafted than he is to any other semblance of youth.

"I didn't say that. Of course, we want an Easter egg hunt!"

"Really? Okay, then I'll get some refillable plastic eggs." A smile came over my face as I silently patted myself on the back. A family tradition that surpassed the wonders of early childhood, their enlightened youth, and one more year in the evolution of their growth into adulthood. I couldn't believe my good fortune at having hit upon such a tradition. Something they would surely remember for a lifetime!

So I loaded the basket up with an exuberance of refillable plastic eggs. 72 to be exact.

And I went home, happy that once again I would hear the excited squeal of children's delight at the prospect of locating hidden eggs filled with nasty, high fructose corn syrup laden candies. And I thought no more about it.

The night before Easter, the conversation went like this.

"Good night Mom, we love you!"

"Don't forget to get up early and hide the eggs!"

"Oh my! You remembered the Easter egg hunt?"

I hadn't.

And off they went to their beds while I dragged my sorry old body to the closet and pulled down all 72 of those refillable plastic eggs and began to stuff them. Guilt crept over me as I stuffed yet another egg with that colorful but nasty, high fructose corn syrup laden Easter candy I had purchased. So I turned to my wallet instead and began to unload all the cash I had. And I stuffed the eggs. All 72 of them.

I awoke early the next morning, hushed the dogs, hid the eggs, and woke my teens up to this long-standing, beloved family tradition. I was still amazed.

They chased quickly around the house, gathered eggs into recyclable grocery sacks since I had forgotten to purchase Easter baskets, and sat down to examine their eggs.

"This is great. I love it that you kids love Easter egg hunts." More pats on my own back. "So what is it that you like about Easter egg hunts? The family tradition? The thrill of the hunt? Or all that nasty candy?"

"The money."

"Yup. Definitely the money. Look at this stash! It's better than allowance!"

Ah, so my understanding of family traditions is still a work in progress.

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