Friday, February 17, 2006

Use your egg

During my last trip to Sainsbury's, I was inspecting the pretty new displays of Easter merchandise. (For the record, Good Friday this year falls on April 14, which is eight weeks from today. But that "what? already?" horse was flogged and dead about ten million expressions of consumer shock ago, so moving on).

On the beautifully arranged tiered display, there was a box marked "Easter Egg Hunt for Four Children". It was made like a cardboard case, with little paper handles and pastel-hued depictions of bunnies and overly euphoric-looking kidlets on the front.

WTF? There are people whose Easter will be made more efficient by the provision of a kit? Good Lord.

When I was really small, my family had the traditional hunt on Easter Sunday, at our tiny weatherboard house down on the coast. We'd be corralled somewhere, and my mother would go outside and hide little chocolate eggs all over the garden. Then would come the thrilling moment of release and my brother and I would rush out into the garden and HUNT. I still remember the thrill of the bright glimpses of jewel-coloured foil in the crevice of a tree stump, peeping through some pine needles or flickering from under the frost-crumpled green of a avocado vine leaf.

My brother is almost two years younger than me, but that wasn't the trouble. The trouble was that he would rush out the door and be overtaken with excitement, rushing from one corner of the garden to the other, looking everywhere, everywhere, everywhere! Up, down, around, at the clouds, at his shoes, anywhere you can look while you're dashing at full pelt on your delighted little feet. He is still (at 30, married and with kid) a person of this kind of headlong enthusiasms. Though now he keeps them rather more to himself, with a secret smile that tells you he's still shouting with excitement ... on the inside.

I too was seething with excitement and the thrill of the chase, but I was methodical and systematic. I spent a lot of time standing in one place, imagining myself into my mother's head and thinking about where she would hide things. I didn't know it then, but I was thinking about which places she would find especially satisfying to hide an egg, because she too was enthralled by the way a glimmery egg could hide in a twist of bark on a eucalypt, or perch nonchalantly on top of a fence post. I was incredibly successful. (It's at this point in the story that my old friend Pluvialis laughs at me when I say that there is nothing about my early life that prefigures my later dreams of academic philosophy).

I'd come back to the deck with a huge haul of tinselly treasures, and my brother would be practically dying of excitement, but have only a handful. Mum always kept a stock of extras aside to make up the difference, but eventually something had to be done. In a stroke of genius (and of love, because the commitment is awesome) she developed a system where my brother and I would run concurrent but independent hunts -- with clues, written on paper. With each clue was an egg, and that clue led you to the next egg.

Initially, my mother relates, the clues were really simple ... stuff like "we eat here" ... and there the little egg would be, resting on a dining room chair. A little pink egg nestling on the pillow of "Mummy and Daddy sleep in this", a green one partially planted in the pot of roses that proclaims "I grow things that smell lovely". And, of course, she could tailor the clues to make them exciting for each of us ... and we'd both end up with the same number of eggs.

As time went on, the clues became more and more complex until eventually my mother brought in my father, the Times crossword nut, to develop cryptic clues, clues that involved baroque family in-jokes, clues that required stop-offs at the dictionary or the atlas. When I was 15, I found a praline-filled striped egg perched precariously on the beak of a fake taxidermied kookaburra we had on the wall after puzzling for some time over a clue that read "Ha ha ha! I'm stuffed."

What was your egg hunt like?


Scrivener said...

Oh my god, that sounds like the best Easter egg hunt ever! Our egg hunts were pretty much just a few eggs along the tops of counters and on the couch. The whole thing was over in 3 minutes.

Holidays sucked in my house.

Heidi the Hick said...

Xtin, your parents ROCK! Please tell them how awesome they are. I am such a lazy parent; my sister hides stuff for my kids.

I must tell you how glad I am that you're feeling expressive today. I'm fighting off a downer and I really appreciate having some good reading material!!!!

Xtin said...

Oh, Scrivener. I'm sorry. What are the hunts like in your own house? Your wee gymnasts look like ferocious egg-hunter types ...

Always glad to oblige, Heidi. But I'm sorry that your day is sucking -- I've had that kind of a week, too. A couple of blog posts have been consigned to oblivion because they were just me whinging boringly about the hellaciousness of academia. How dull.

Tom Bozzo said...

My brother and I grew up totally huntless -- my mother was satisfied to ply us with chocolate, which we were more than happy to eat without having to do a lot of work. In fact, after I left home, my mother sent me easter baskets well into my thirties.

My wife arranged a hunt for my son last year, very much along the simple lines your mother started with. He's surprisingly guileless when it comes to hidden stuff for the time being, but I can see making use of his growing quantitative skills (e.g., he can count backwards well enough that he can't be talked into eating a sixth green bean when five is the agreed-upon quantity) to add a little more involvement to this year's go-'round.

And, I love the '...ten million expressions of consumer shock ago, so moving on' turn of phrase. Amazing how one sentence can make me so glad I don't have to do very much shopping at all.