Monday, April 18, 2011

Lessons from an Easter Egg Hunt

The egg in the Cypress tree was always a pain to retrieve. I use the word "pain" to keep this a g-rated blog. Even as early as seven years old I was already doing cost vs. benefit analysis in my head. Every Easter there was a dyed egg hidden in that tree's knot hole. I didn't have to search for it; I knew it would be there. If I got to that tree first, it was a dependable "get" to up my basket count. But, the sticky sap of the tree was incredibly tenacious. If I got within ten feet of that tree I would have the nasty stuff on my clothes or skin. On my clothes, I was in trouble with my Mom. On my skin, I'd be rubbing it all day long, trying to clean it off. And it wouldn't come off without gasoline, meaning I'd have to approach an adult who'd help but not without telling me to stay away from the tree and possibly finding a food prep chore for me to do. So it was leave the egg or deal with the consequences on my own. Sometimes I took that egg, sometimes I left it. But either way I considered my decision carefully.

The annual Easter Egg Hunt was at my grandparents' small farm in rural Oklahoma. Usually the weather was perfect - the day warm without the thick humidity that would come later in the season. But often the ground was muddy from recent rains. The egg hunters would be wearing that mud before the day was over.

In the 1960s, my cousins and I usually descended en masse on the farm along with our "ham and potato salad toting" parents for the holiday. My Mom came from a large family with many siblings, so there were always a lot of kids under the age of sixteen to join in the egg hunt. The older cousins, along with my Mom's youngest sisters (who still lived on the farm) boiled the eggs, colored them, and hid them before everyone else arrived.

From the moment our car parked in the gravel area near the front gate to the yard, my brother and I were leaning out the windows, scanning the large yard, hoping to spy a few eggs ahead of time so we could plan our attack. Having a plan was important. Our goal was always to find the most eggs.

Still ... it was an unspoken rule but we all knew the easy eggs, the ones in plain view on the lawn or nestled among the daylilies were for the toddlers. When the whistle sounded, we bypassed those and went to work searching for those that required cunning, daring, and often gymnastic feats to rival those of any circus performer. The eggs in the rose bushes were the worst. To get to them with out being bitten by the thorns was almost impossible. We learned to find sticks or anything with a long handle to reach deep into the wild roses and rake out the eggs. I don't know how many times my long hair got tangled in the bushes, but I persisted until I got the egg. I loved the robin's egg blue ones best. Still do.

Back then everyone had clothes lines in their yards, the wires attached to large t-shaped metal poles. The end of each pole had two openings on the crossbar. Each opening was perfect for hiding an egg. I wasn't tall enough to reach them on my own, but I could hold up my little brother and he could grab them for me. We split the bounty.

Flower pots, tires, dog houses (I can't remember if we ate all those eggs, but thinking back I hope not), we searched all the usual places and then kept looking. We believed if we looked hard enough we could find just one more. And sometimes we did. Regardless, we didn't give up until the adults called us in for lunch.

Afterwards we'd count our eggs, doctor our wounds, and get ready for the softball game that would take place in the same front yard that we'd just searched for eggs. Looking back on those days, I wonder at all the life lessons we learned: decision making, planning, setting goals, caring for those younger or weaker, persevering in the face of adversity, teamwork, and creating our own rules of fair play. And wonder of all wonders, it was all accomplished without adults being called in to settle differences or direct the activity.

Do you have a favorite memory of an Easter Egg Hunt?

aka The Southern Half of Evelyn David

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  1. Rhonda, I love this post! Easter egg hunts were always a big deal with our family, too. My mother took great pride in hiding eggs in the craziest places. She also hid our Easter baskets inside, and I remember finding one in the dryer. Now she hides microbrewed bottles of beer in her yard for Ed to find. He loves it and loves my mom for being such a nut. (And he knows, too, why I'm so crazy.) ;-)

  2. Thank you for sharing your story! Easter egg hunts are always fun. I can imagine the delight your Aunts took in hiding all the eggs and watching the hunt.

    A couple of years ago 2 sets of neighbors ended up going out of town during Easter break and we ended up house/pet sitting. They were all due to return the day before Easter. With keys in hand on that Saturday morning my famliy hid plastic eggs with candy throughout both houses.

    Though we didn't get to see the egg hunt take place we heard several stories from the parents. The parents enjoyed watching their teenagers act like little kids hunting for eggs in sock drawers, under beds and on top of ceiling fans. My favorite was in the frig. egg carton, at least that way I assured a few candies for each Mom. : )

  3. Thanks Anjali and Susan! Easter was always a fun time for me when I was growing up. I'm craving a chocolate bunny right now!

    aka The Southern Half of Evelyn David

  4. What I remember is that elusive egg that no one found until months later. You're think with all the kids I had that every egg would be found--but there was always that one.

    Sometime it was the smell that clued us in.

    Thanks for the Easter Egg memories.


  5. This brought back fond memories, Rhonda. My dad used to write clever rhyming clues in poems for us to find the eggs hidden in the (air-conditioned) house--beginning the year after our collie (who looked just like Lassie) turned our backyard into a minefield of Easter Egg Hunt disaster! (LOL Marilyn! Can so relate)

    I carried on the tradition with mysterious clues for my husband & I swear, even tho' he's great about doing the laundry, he still forgets to check the dryer for Easter surprises!

  6. Thanks, Marilyn and Lynn! I'd forgotten about those rotten eggs! Yes, there were some of those that showed up. We never had an Easter Egg Hunt inside but it sounds like fun. When I was very young, my great grandfather lived with my grandparents. We lived in a house nextdoor. While my young parents both worked, my grandmother got my brother and I off to school and watched us afterward for an hour or two. My great grandfather - we called him - Papa - he had two little rubber dolls that were about 3 inches high. I have no idea where he got them or why he had them, but he would hide them in my grandmother's house while we were at school and when we came home, we had the fun of searching for them. I hadn't thought about those dolls for years. It's one of the few memories I have of Papa.

    Whether it's Passover or Easter, both halves of "Evelyn David" wish everyone a happy holiday and wonderful family memories - old and new ones.

  7. The most exciting Easter egg hunt I enjoyed as a kid was during a family reunion in Texas. Had a great time with all the folks, and there was a huge tornado some miles away. I still vividly remember getting up on a bridge with my Easter basket and watching it roll across the landscape (it didn't come toward us)

    by-the-by we just had another Pass-Over Tornado Easter. My family is fine but it leveled a school five miles away. We just got power back tonight. Its been out since Saturday early evening.