March 30, 2010

The Mad Dash for Eggs

Since the beginning of time, the Lions Club in my little village of Anatevka hosts an Easter egg hunt. The Lions Club is a strange bunch with fraternal rituals. My father sometimes returned from weekly meetings with his tie sawed in half. Fined for something silly like his beloved Cubs winning a game, Dad often paid the price with half of a wide navy and gold tie.

My memory underscores a different time – a day when schoolteachers wore ties, and a time when ties were inexpensive enough to waste.

On a spring Saturday morning in 1965, the wild men of the Lions Club placed multi-colored plastic eggs in the field behind our K-8 elementary school.

Several hundred children – this was the Baby Boom – lined up in age groups, tightly clutching yellow, lavender, and green braided Easter baskets. Anticipation hung over the crowd and parents held children back from the mad dash to find eggs.

Which eggs held candy and which had coins?

Then there were the ringers.

One family had seven or eight children over two decades. They were like Amazon people in their physical abilities. Each year when the elementary school had a track event, we called “Play Day,” members of this family won almost every race. Now, no matter the age group, one of these Amazon people participated and raced to the lawn treasures.

Family friends also had three beautiful, lean, athletic daughters. Unlike my brother and me, they were the first chosen at Red Rover. This family’s oldest daughter, my lifelong friend, is just a few months older than I am.

Ready. Four hundred little legs arched forward, baskets in hand.

Set. Four hundred eyes looked forward to the field, now carpeted with plastic eggs.

Go. The Lions Tail-Twister shot off his starter gun and the Amazon children lurched forward as did my lean, athletic friend, leaving me in their wake.

Soon the Amazon children and my friends’ baskets overflowed with the bounty of this Christian holiday

Where was I? Dawdling, like Prissy in Gone with the Wind. Looking around and planning my strategy. Tying my Keds Red Ball Jets in big, slow loops.

I nearly lost my balance as a child with a broken leg in a cast breezed past me.

Okay, perhaps I should start. I ran my hardest.

I spy a yellow egg with my little eye.

Gone, Amazon child number four swoops in and gets my egg. And it has a quarter inside! There, over by the big maple tree, a blue/green orb. I am off to get it, running, running, running and then -- it is gone.

Every year. Same story. (Are you weeping with pity by now?) My sad, sad tale of the child who is beaten at this game. Let’s make me more pathetic. Let us say, I am dressed in blue plaid pants that are too short, and my mother has insisted on this cold late March day that I wear a hat. It is a god-awful hat from the 1965 Monkey Wards catalog.

Now the tears are rolling down your face with pity and pathos for this wretch who resembles a Dickens character.

Flash forward. Same Lions Club, 1995. Same Lions Club members, just moving more slowly. Same little village of Anatevka (Okay, I will stop with the Fiddler on the Roof metaphors for a Christian celebration.)

Now the Amazon children have mated with other athletic peoples, and their children populate the town. Even though I moved away from my little village in 1975, I recognize them and watch them stretching in athletic clothing like Olympic track stars.

In addition, the oldest of the beautiful sisters is there with her children. Her daughter, who is a year older than my son, is a beautiful, athletic child.

Flashback, OMG, 1965.

Ready. Four hundred jumping legs of the Baby Boomer children lean forward with their plastic, wire-handled buckets.

Set. Two hundred hands stuff Game Boys into Thomas the Tank Engine or Barney jacket pockets and face forward.

Go. The Tail-Twister fires the starter gun, and children rush forward and fill buckets with eggs.

My son, who is five, stands at the starting gate and looks around.

Is he supposed to run?

My husband and father are shouting at him, “An egg. Go over there. Behind the tree. Look in the hole. See the pink plastic egg. It’s right there.”

He saunters around the course as several Amazon grandchildren rush past him.

He is thinking about something else. Maybe the big Lego tower he built at Grandmas?

My friend stands next to me, smiling and laughing, and not remembering the horror of thirty years ago.

Her daughter runs to her with a purple bucket full of eggs.

Where is my son? He is standing on his head in the grass, bucket askew.

Some eggs do not fall far from the chicken. Quoth the raven.