As Easter 2018 approaches, I’ve been thinking about Easter holidays from my childhood, and I realized there are just two I can remember. Probably because both had residual effects that lingered long after Easter Sunday was over. One of those is the episode I call The Year of Mislaid Eggs.
It was the early 1960s. My mother Eloise was a meticulous record keeper who listed everything she thought notable, whether it was spring bulbs she’d planted, countries she’d visited or marriage proposals she’d received. Naturally, she recorded details from each Easter egg hunt too. One year, though, after making notes of how many eggs she’d hidden and what colors they were, she forgot to note where she’d hidden them. Our house sat on a wooded lot of several acres. There were lots of possibilities.
Most of the eggs—the less determined ones—were apprehended on the day of the hunt, but a handful were not. We kept looking for them over the next couple of weeks, finally tracking down all but one. The Fugitive. That egg eluded us for a long time—months—but eventually we came upon it by accident, five or six feet off the ground in the fork of a live oak. It had been on the loose for so long that we left it where it was. We joked that we did it out of respect, honoring its long bid for freedom. Honestly, though, the egg was so disgusting by then that none of us would touch it.
And then there was the episode of The Easter Bunny Cake.
Mother was known for her enthusiasms, some of which she foisted on me. There were the ones I enjoyed: rock hunting, card games, communicating with the spirits of the dead. And there were the ones I could have done without. I was forced to collect useless memorabilia: matchbooks, antique buttons, souvenir spoons, Hummel figurines, hotel keys. I had to take sewing lessons—from several instructors, and with no regard for my spectacular ineptitude. One of her notions that still makes me shudder was the (thankfully) brief period in 6th grade, when she was determined to make me look like a British schoolgirl. That meant I had to dress in a long, shapeless skirt of houndstooth check, and a prim white blouse with a Peter Pan collar. I have no idea if that was an accurate British schoolgirl imitation or not. But imagine wearing that outfit and walking for the first time into a classroom full of 11-year-old staring strangers. The fall term has already been in session for 2 months, and all the other girls are wearing miniskirts. The only way it could have been worse is if I’d worn clothes I’d sewn myself.
The Easter Bunny cake had its genesis in another of her enthusiasms. She decided the dining table needed a special decoration for the family Easter dinner. Therefore, she would focus her considerable culinary skills on baking a realistic white rabbit cake for the centerpiece.
It was gorgeous. The rabbit crouched low on the platter, about 20” nose-to-tail, with its long ears flat along its back. She covered it liberally in white frosting and sweetened shredded coconut—two abominations right there—and gave it pink jellybean eyes. She was so pleased with the way it turned out that no one was allowed to cut into it. Which was fine with me, since I had no intention of eating that cake anyway. Then or now, endlessly masticating sweetened shredded coconut gummed together with white frosting would be one of my least favorite things to do. It’s like a scene from a Ren & Stimpy cartoon.
(And don’t get me started on jellybeans.)
To preserve it for our viewing pleasure as long as possible, the cake was subsequently sealed beneath a plastic dome and placed in the front yard. It peeked out from under a bush beside a curve in the driveway. How decorative it looked. And so true-to-life that arriving guests who were unaware of its presence would stop their cars, fearing they were about to squash the family pet. This was entertaining to watch from the kitchen window, much more fun than eating it would have been. Eventually, though, the plastic dome yellowed, and so did the coconut. Into the trash the whole thing went, never to be mistaken for a pet—much less a dessert—again.
Over the years, Glen and Katie and I have formed our own family Easter traditions, and they’re much more relaxed. We can’t always get together for the holiday any more, but we cherish the times we do. Our routine doesn’t vary much. Eighteen hard-boiled eggs for Katie. Eighteen for me. Cups filled with egg dye. Ella singing in the background (Cole Porter’s “I Love Paris” is a great choice), a modest champagne to sip and something delicious to nibble on as we while away the afternoon, coaxing the eggshells to bloom with lovely hues. Glen admires our creations, then hides plastic ones in the yard. The real eggs remain pristine until they’re eaten.
No fugitives. Not a rabbit cake in sight. Which means that when Katie’s my age, she probably won’t remember any family Easters.
Dang it. I guess I’ll have to make a rabbit cake now.
Happy Easter, everyone!