Meredith received a basket filled with Easter chocolates from her mother the other day. The basket was lined with green plastic faux-grass that sparkled when you tilted it under our dining room lights. The basket's smartly situated on the table that's between the entrance to the hallway and the entrance to the living room. We have to pass by and dip our hands into the shiny faux-grass for the foil-wrapped chocolate eggs.
My parents never gave me Easter baskets. Instead, Easter was about church and going to three-hour-long masses. It was definitely not one of my favorite holidays. Mass was presided over by a humorless man who was Scottish. His booming criticisms of modernity shook the panes of stain glass. I hated going to mass. I hated it even more on Easter Sunday because of the length of the mass and the knowledge that after mass I would participate in the town's annual "Easter Eggstravaganza."
The one semblance of a "traditional" Easter in my household would arrive wheen my parents allowed me to participate in the annual "Easter Egg Hunt." Other kids got baskets and pet bunnies, and all that, but my parents were pragmatists. "What do Easter baskets have to do with god?" they asked. I never answered back because I could never think of a viable reason. And anyway, Easter baskets and Easter candies were never a part of their culture. A few blocks down, Ontario High School football field would be transformed into a mass of agitated five to ten-year-old bodies. Sprawled out before us were several thousand plastic eggs. This was no hunt . . . this was gladitorial combat. In October, I had witnessed one young football player's arm break and hang at his side after getting tackled. Teeth were knocked out on this field. Shoulders were dislocated. Now we were all young boys and girls on this same field, prepared to show the other boys and girls no mercy. High up above the lawn, parents would sit and gossip. Our payoff would be a sugar-induced high that would last for five hours. The payoff for the parents? A free viewing of the carnage.
The officials for the event lined us up at the edge of the track. The plastic eggs looked like they were melting in the sun. Once the starter gun fired, we were off, scooping the pastel-colored plastics from out of the grass and into our faux-wicker baskets. They were hot to the touch, but we could all tell that something was inside of each of them. Each of us had our individualized dream of wealth and power. Perhaps they weren't filled with chocolates. . . perhaps they were filled with cash?One girl had fallen and scrapped her knee in the grass. She was still in her church-going Easter clothes and her once-white dress was now a series of grassy smears and soil. The contents of her basket spilled all over the grass as swarms of children dove for the eggs tumbling in every direction. They looked like little piranhas we had seen on film during a biology class, tearing into a wild boar who tried to cross the Amazon. Bits of bone and the boar's snout would bob to the surface, then sink into the dark waters.
I was never one of the kids who grabbed the most eggs. Additionally, I was never the kid who was too slow, leaving the field empty-handed. I always had just enough eggs to take home. Invariably, the chocolate inside of the eggs would be soft, melting right out of their foil.
Easter weekend's coming and I'm helping myself to Meredith's basket. There's a pile of unpeeled chocolate egg wrappings making their tinny sounds as I set them down. I'll probably have to refill her basket at some point . . . Maybe I'll get her another basket.