I was brought up to observe the standard annual rites. We bought a Paas egg-coloring kit at the grocery that came with all the paraphernalia you needed for starters: color-coded aspirin to toss in cups of water and turn it Crayola-colored and undrinkable; a wire hook to rescue submerged eggs from their watery prisons after a dozen tries; non-stick stickers, most of which would later be thrown away still attached to their original release paper; a wax crayon for drawing gunky, invisible shapes on the eggshell for no one to see and the dye to soak through anyway; decorative paper collars to use as Easter egg stands, as if the results would be museum-worthy; and the box that contained it all, designed with the punch-out holes to transform into an egg-drying rack that would collapse under the weight of three or more eggs.
Better kits were available at five times the price. That’s not how our household rolled. We bought the minimum kit required by Easter law. We wasted several Styrofoam cups. We left the eggs in their makeshift dunk-tanks for as long as our patience could stand. They emerged slightly colored with white speckles. Mission: barely accomplished. Any Easter eggs we ever saw in magazine photos or on TV shows were obviously display models hand-painted by talented college students who needed part-time work and had plenty of free time to hone their craft.
Once the eggs were slightly less white, then they had to be hidden so I could play hide-‘n’-seek and locate them around the house. We tried it once or twice outside, but the outdoor dirt would add another, even more unsightly layer of speckling. The indoors had more creative nooks and crannies as hiding options, not to mention a more self-contained playing field. Wandering around our townhome’s several hundred square feet in search of eggs took long enough; expanding the game to thousands of square feet was even more of a drag.
I never quite grasped the emotional complexities of this routine beloved by millions. My internal monologue was no help in reconciling the futility: Why did we do this? Because this is what you do on Easter. What does it mean? It means it is Easter and white eggs are forbidden. Do I have an incentive? Yes: Easter eggs. Why can’t it just be a normal weekend? It’s Easter. We have to do something. But why a bunny? Because Easter. I don’t get it. Because they said so. Who are “they”? “They” are SHUT UP AND DO EASTERING.
[The preceding paragraph has been upconverted from the original 1980s idiomatic equivalent. But you get the idea.]
Easter cartoon specials were no more helpful in teaching me the true meaning of Easter. Bunnies created in various artistic styles would acknowledge their role as official worldwide egg distributor for a day; fret because of a conflict that threatened their livelihood, and they couldn’t afford to lose such a sweet gig that allowed them to work fewer days per year than an H&R Block service rep; and then the day was saved thanks to a healthy dose of Easter spirit. Or a chance sighting of the Easter star. Or a timely intervention by three Easter ghosts. Or possibly guns. The details faded from memory roughly ten minutes after each and every viewing. As holiday cartoons went, Easter specials weren’t the best subgenre.
The capstone of them all was, as with most other holidays, a Peanuts special. It’s the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown allowed the cast of the world’s all-time greatest comic strip their shot at lending meaning to the occasion. Unlike the somewhat more informative A Charlie Brown Christmas, Linus was denied the chance to recite evangelical Scripture explaining Christ’s crucial role in the proceedings. All I really learned from Easter Beagle is that the jokes cribbed from Schulz’ original strips were funnier than any of the original dialogue; that any animal can pass out free Easter eggs if they’re properly motivated and have access to the necessary resources, such as Easter eggs and opposable thumbs; and that Peppermint Patty made Gracie Allen look like Marie Curie.
Now that Easter absolutely means something to me today, now that my son is far too old for the Game (he grew bored of it even sooner than I did), now that even some of our nieces and nephews are beyond the recommended ages to play along, the annual discoloring of the eggs has fallen by the wayside. Our Easter will be marked not by failed attempts at food art, but by a crowded church service (Lord willing), a family gathering, and a heartfelt appreciation and remembrance of things utmost.
I wouldn’t be opposed to some hard-boiled eggs, though. Great snacks aren’t the most meaningful creations, but I wouldn’t call them meaningless.