Monday, March 30, 2015

The Easter Bunny Went AWOL by Gail Roughton

One work day afternoon, more years back than I care to admit, my desk phone rang. I grabbed it immediately, both because I was (and still am) very good at my “day job” and because it was a school holiday and my children, ranging in age from fifteen to twelve, were home alone. Now that in and of itself should tell you how long ago it was since nowadays, all kids call their parents at work on their cell phones, but cell phones at that time were large, square and black and generally lived as permanent fixtures on car dashboards.  (Told you it was a long time ago.)

“Mama?”  Uh-oh.  My eldest child and only daughter had that accusatory edge in her voice, as though miffed at something. Or someone. I braced myself for some tale of sibling strife.

“Hey, baby.  Everything okay?”

“No, everything is not okay! I’ve been through this house from top to bottom and I can’t find the Easter Bunny anywhere! Now, don’t you think you or Daddy need to get busy, hmmmmm?”

At this point, I should explain that Easter was a big deal in our family.  So was Halloween and so was Christmas.  Don’t get me wrong, I know we’re not unique in that, it’s just – how shall I phrase this?  My husband and I went a little crazy on holidays.  Any holiday.  Every holiday. Okay, we went completely over the top.  We kept right on going over the top for years after most families dispense with any pretense that baskets of candy are delivered in the dead of night by a magical rabbit or that the presents surrounding the tree on Christmas morning came down the chimney with a jolly, bearded old man in a red suit.

The unfilled Easter baskets themselves were part and parcel of the magic.  All three of my children had their own Easter basket, chosen for them on their first Easter. The basket itself never changed, not in all the years the Easter bunny came. They sat their empty basket out on the kitchen table every Easter Eve, after we’d dyed the Easter eggs and carefully arranged them in the big Easter basket saved from my own childhood. And sometime during the night, the Easter bunny filled those baskets with enough gaily wrapped chocolate candy and jelly beans to give an elephant a sugar rush.  Then he tiptoed down the hall and left each filled basket by each child’s respective bed, and sat a big boxed chocolate bunny beside the filled basket. It had to sit beside the basket because the basket was too dang full for the chocolate bunny to fit inside it. Of course, a new stuffed animal always sat on the other side of the baskets to finish things off.  The new stuffed animal didn’t have to be a bunny, though, sometimes it was  a duck or a lamb.

All this was easy enough to pull off when the kids were little. Things got a bit more complicated as they aged. Especially since neither they nor we were about to acknowledge the fact that either Mama or Daddy went down the candy aisle of the grocery store filling their cart with bags of candy and hid it to await Easter Eve, or that it was Mama who lined the baskets with grass and tore open the bags of candy on the kitchen table,  carefully dividing it between the three baskets by counting out “one, two, three, one, two, three…”. Certainly no one would ever admit it was Mama who snuck into the dark rooms and sat the baskets beside each respective bed. 

As they aged, by tacit agreement, without it ever being discussed, I moved “Operation Easter Basket” from the kitchen table into my bedroom closet, sitting on the floor in the late night and early morning hours to count out “one, two, three…”. The boy who would become our son-in-law entered our door at the age of seventeen, and the count shifted to “one, two, three, four…” because of course, Jason had to spend the night on Easter Eve so the Easter Bunny could bring his basket, too.  And by tacit agreement, without it ever being discussed, the kids turned their lights off at least by midnight and climbed into their respective beds.

Whether the kids were really asleep during those teen years when I snuck into dark rooms to deposit baskets, I don’t know.  I didn’t ask, and it didn’t matter.  All that mattered was the continuity, the tradition, the celebration of the magic interwoven into childhood and holidays. I’ve got to admit, I wasn’t sure that celebration mattered as much to my teenage children as it did to us as parents. At least, not until my fifteen year old daughter made it known that the Easter Bunny was an anticipated visitor who’d apparently gone AWOL and she expected the situation to be rectified immediately.  And no, the Easter Bunny wasn’t AWOL. His candy stash was sitting behind me in an office closet, safely away from exploring teenagers. He doesn’t come to my house anymore, but that’s as it should be. He certainly comes to her house, leaving baskets of goodies and surprises beside two little beds. Because magic is a legacy, a gift from one generation to the next.  Pass it on and never let the magic die. Happy Easter!
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