Last Saturday morning I was walking through our neighborhood and thanks to the summer-like weather, it was buzzing with activity. Aside from the normal sight of people mowing lawns and trimming hedges, there were young children with baskets trundling through their respective yards.
Turns out the yards were covered in colorful plastic eggs, and as I smiled and waved at a neighbor, she informed me that her kids were enjoying an Easter egg hunt.
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So I watched for a minute, and basically what I saw were cute little girls and cute little boys just randomly picking up faux eggs and placing them in their baskets.
The process didn’t take long because – again – the eggs were in plain sight. There’s no way the kids could’ve missed them.
I like to think of myself as a good neighbor and a nice person, so I didn’t say anything. But I’m telling you, this was not a hunt of any kind. This wasn’t even a “fish in a barrel” situation. It was more like, “Hey kids … try not to step on an egg when you’re picking up another egg here in this field of copious eggs.”
According to the dictionary, the first definition of “hunt” is to “pursue or kill for sport or food” and the second is “search determinedly for someone or something.”
OK, maybe in the technical sense these kids were pursuing plastic eggs for sport and searching determinedly for them so they were, in fact “hunting” eggs. But to my mind a real, working definition of “hunt” requires at least a rudimentary level of difficulty.
So let’s return to those thrilling days of yesteryear when I was a small, bespectacled child adorned in a Nehru shirt, polyester shorts and Keds.
We had actual, sure enough Easter egg hunts because the Easter eggs were hidden. And I don’t mean they were placed atop a clump of grass or situated by a column on a front porch – they were carefully tucked away in hard to reach, hard to find spots.
In fact, when it was time to hunt Easter eggs, I was never asked, “Do you want to hunt Easter eggs?” I was told by my mother, “I’m going to hide eggs.” (It was implied that since they were hidden, they should subsequently be hunted).
The entire ritual took place over a 24-hour period. First mother would boil actual eggs (I’m not condoning the use of real eggs, I’m just telling you this was my experience) and once they cooled, she would dye them. I remember other kids would have brightly colored eggs and some even had designs because their parents used coloring kits.
Her eggs were usually what I would call either “crime scene red” or “brutal bleeding blue.” They were also splotchy, so they had a bit of a Jackson Pollock vibe, even though I had no idea who Jackson Pollock was at the time.
As for the hiding, I’m sure much of that job was farmed out to my brother, who was 12 years older than me. He would hide them in trees, under manholes, inside mailboxes – I think he even buried a few with the aid of a trowel.
But mom – who had a bit of a mean streak – wasn’t totally uninvolved with the cloaking of the eggs. I can never prove it, of course, but I’m pretty sure she once flung one into the open window of a moving automobile.
By the end of the day many eggs went unclaimed (the one in the car possibly even wound up in another state), but those I found were like gold to me because I had earned them. And there was nothing quite so satisfying as peeling those little suckers and eating them. A boiled egg that has been unrefrigerated, exposed to the elements for a full day and then devoured tastes like victory.
Now, far be it from me to tell anyone how to raise their children. And if having kids stomp through a yard full of plastic eggs randomly tossed on the ground is your idea of a “hunt,” I won’t argue with you. But the old ways are sometimes the best ways. And if you happen to find an egg in your mailbox this weekend – or notice one in the backseat of your car – then you’ll know a real Easter egg hunt is afoot.