It all started in 2002. We parents decided we could create a fun experience for our little boys, then only three and one. What could be better than hunting for eggs the Saturday morning before Easter?
It started out pretty simply. We bought plastic eggs, and we filled them with jelly beans. "Only one candy in each," I remember saying, many times, to my sons, "and don’t eat them! They are for the eggs!" We invited their preschool classmates, and the neighborhood kids, too.
Over the years, we’ve adjusted. We discovered candy must be individually wrapped to reuse eggs. We realize hunting for "a couple of hundred" eggs could be done in 15 minutes, my (momentarily nuts) husband declared, "Buy more! We must have at least 1,000!"
The second year, I thought, "Let’s dye eggs!"-- and a new activity was added. After extraordinary weather and relatively late Easters, we hit a very cold, blustery March day. Since then, the party has encompasses the lawn ... and house, back deck, front porch, stone walls ... all is fair game for hiding, sorting, eating, chatting ...
As children grew in size, speed and recklessness, we established "little kid areas" and "big kid areas." We added in gold and silver eggs, and prizes.
The last years, more parents stayed (which was fun, of course), so we brewed coffee and tea. Then we felt we should try to balance the sugar high: we added bagels, cream cheeses, eggs and fruits.
Now, after speeding through twelve years of an idea-turned-tradition, our oldest son is 15, our middle son is 13, and our daughter is 8.
In early April, the youngest reminded me to make the flyers. The exasperated teenagers fixed me with what I like to term their "loving disdainful look." They said, "Mom, I don’t need those. I will text people."
OK, I thought, fair enough: flyers with colorful Easter eggs and bunnies are beneath them. I get it. I gave them a week, and asked them who was coming?
"I haven’t texted anyone yet," they both replied.
I admonished them to do it, very soon -- or even right now, I suggested. They both live with their phones permanently attached to their fingers anyway.
"I am in the middle of something, mom," they said, as they twisted and tilted their phones in various positions, in yet another round of some game that fails to attract me in the least.
I left it alone for another five days, cognizant that it was vacation week this year, and knowing that many friends might be traveling. In the meantime, the youngest and I stuffed eggs with little help from the two older ones. (I noted, however, that everyone seemed fully capable of stealing some candy as they walked by. Candy wrappers falling out of their pockets in the dryer gave them away.)
At the beginning of vacation week, the middle son confirmed that he had, finally, invited his group.
Still, the oldest gave me excuses. I was perplexed, and said so. I reminded him that last year, his cohorts had helped stuff the eggs (the fastest we’ve ever done it -- eight teenagers’ hands do indeed make light work). I recalled their bumbling enthusiasm as they shoved each other out of the way at the beginning. (I had even worried how to tell the lacrosse coach someone on the team broke a leg at an Easter egg hunt, of all things.)
Finally, knowing that some friends had already been invited through their siblings or my efforts anyway, he acquiesced and grudgingly made a Facebook event page. On Thursday night.
Saturday morning arrived, bright and clear, warm even. With the quickest of instructions, we turned them -- all of them -- loose.
They flew by: these six-foot-three-inch men with their plastic bags flying the breeze, singing out "I got that one!" as they spied an egg. On the other -- slower -- side, my 2-year-old niece laughed, holding mommy’s hand while she searched. In between, the grade schoolers helped the littler ones -- and ran fast to snatch up eggs before the older kids came swooping back around.
Thirty minutes later, the high schoolers filled the front porch, the grade schoolers snacked in the kitchen, and the middle schoolers were still searching for the last eggs. It was only a momentary lull, as it’s just not natural for them to stop moving. Soon, a roaring game of "Capture the Flag" joins all of them together again. Mostly adults viewed their game from the relative safety of the deck, soaking up the sunshine, painting designs on the hard boiled eggs, and just chatting.
Eventually, parents readied to leave, but many kids just couldn’t leave yet. "Come back later!" they cried.
Game over, more candy consumed, and the teenagers came up with their next plan: a polar plunge into our fire pond. I reminded them that the ice only cleared off two weeks earlier. They insisted that was the fun of it -- and besides, they said, "We can all go into the hot tub afterward."
Reasoning that this ought not take too long, off we went, driving the scant half mile over our mud-filled road, with kids and dogs piled in the back of a pickup truck. They screamed in delight when friends dove in -- and the friends screamed in shock at the temperature, scrambling out for towels. Once back at the house, they made good on their promise to get warm -- in the hot tub, in the showers, in the sun ... They slowed down (a little) and broke apart into groups with their precious electronics, before their parents eventually reclaim them, one by one.
By 8.30 that night, the hubbub has died down, and we are alone as a family. We ask them if this should be the last year of the Easter Egg Hunt. Are they too old for this now?
The younger two immediately declare that we can’t possibly stop this tradition, with the middle child sticking up (oddly) for the youngest. "We have to do it for her friends still," he states. I wonder if there might be a personal motivation in his sudden support for his sister?
But the oldest one is not so sure. "I am in high school, you know," he points out.
We let it go. We get it: it’s hard to know what is going to be accepted, and what is going to be laughed at. These are the things he has to figure out, just like we did, even if that age seems so long ago to us now. We suppose he’ll let us know what he wants, and how we are supposed to act.
After all, as the oldest, he has been teaching us all along.
Jill Stahl Tyler is a parent to three children involved in the local schools-now at the high school, middle school and elementary school levels. She firmly believes in all education, and currently sits on the board for the Brattleboro School Endowment, the Brattleboro Town School Board and the Early Education Services policy council.