To me, Easter has always meant hidden treasure. As a child, I was a candy connoisseur, marking my calendar with red circles for Halloween, Easter, Valentines Day, and Christmas – the sugar holidays. Still, I found secular Easter celebrations rather odd.
I’d always wondered what it would be like to have Easter with green grass and living baby chicks and lambs instead of no plastic blue Robin’s eggs and cardboard cut-outs of newborn animals. It seemed strange to celebrate the rebirth of nature when everything was gray and partly frozen. So sweet a holiday during the month of mud.
Our American neighbours search for edible treasures in their gardens and backyards and British children think nothing of finding their eggs below flowering bushes. Anything hidden outside in northern Ontario has to be found within the hour lest rain, or possibly snow, turn chocolate eggs into chocolate syrup.
My mother and her brother grew up on a farm in the Maritimes. After finding the hen’s eggs in the morning, they would go back to bed with hot cocoa while their mother coloured the eggs with natural dyes and hid them around the house. The children would find them and stage a competition as to who could eat the most. I’m not sure what’s worse, making a child sick on candy or sick on hen’s eggs. Perhaps the real lure was the chance to go back to bed after chores with a cup of cocoa, listening to their mother sneak about the little home.
My mother believed the more cups of sugar in a recipe, the better. I suspect she circled the sugar holidays as well. She certainly never skimped at Easter when I was a child.
When I was candy hunting age, my brother and sister were teenagers. That solved the problem of the oldest child finding all the treats before the youngest. I got the whole enchilada. This was one time I wasn’t sad to be without a close sibling.
I remember being impressed that the Easter rabbit could manage so well. Each year as I became better at finding treats, he became better at hiding them. He also grew as I grew, putting them in higher places.
As exciting as it was to find the Easter treats it was even more fun not to find them. Nothing brought on a shriek of glee better than discovering a stray candy after I thought I had eaten my last icing coated egg. Perhaps I would open the sugar bowl, preparing to smother my overly sweet Captain Crunch with an additional 2 teaspoons of refined white sweetener. Snuggled in the crystal would be a clutch of candied eggs. What better way to start the day than with sugar bonus?
Even better were Easter treats in plain view that had escaped notice. I’d be watching television, yearning for just one more hollow chocolate egg to jam over my fingers like a ring and munch as it melted over my knuckles. My eyes scanned the room during the commercial break, hoping, refusing to believe it was over. I paused to look at the stairway to the star.
My grandfather had presented each of his children with a handmade wooden staircase about a foot and a half long with a moon behind. There was a separate wooden star with a little platform hung above the staircase. My mother was Catholic, so the steps held statues of saints. On the top step rested the Madonna and on the star, of course, was Jesus. I remember the thrill of realizing that a little chocolate rabbit was perched devoutly at the protective feet of Mary. I snatched the candy creature can blew the dust off the wrapper.
Less attractive were the unwrapped treasures, forgotten in the spider plant, blossoming with their own mixture of dust and pet hair, or the now deformed Easter treat squashed between the couch cushion among lost pennies and leaking ballpoint pens. It was a tough call, but most could be rescued with a good washing.
There were treats that permanently escaped my clutches. They were claimed by Nervy and Nipper. These were not sailors who boarded at our house. Rather they were noisy, wiry, stubborn, territorial Chihuahuas. What was theirs, was theirs. They had no qualms about taking on grown men or well muscled German shepherds who behaved inappropriately. I have better luck wrestling a living rabbit away from the protection of the Madonna than getting any Easter candy away from the dogs. Not that I wanted after it had been batted about, partly chewed, and buried in the dog’s bed.
I did have some limits.
First published in the Chronicle-Journal/Times-News, Sunday, April 11, 1993.