He has no idea what Easter is, or what to do during an Easter egg hunt. But he knows, because of my smile and the tone of my voice, that what I’m asking him to do is fun.
I hand him the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles bucket his aunt bought for him yesterday, and we go outside. I’ve placed the brightly colored plastic eggs, some filled with chocolate or jelly beans, others with finger puppets or small toys, around the yard in easy to spot places. But I know that he is still going to need a little bit of help to find each one.Once we show him what he’s supposed to look for, he races screeching with joy across the lawn. We are placed strategically around the yard; his father by the lawn chairs, his grandmother under the peach tree. There are twelve eggs total, and he finds them all within moments. With each discovery, he hoists his egg high, yelling, “Hooray!” before he plunks it into the pail. Inside, he curls into my lap, and one by one I grab the toy-filled eggs first, cracking open each one so he can then pull out the tiger, the lion, each finger puppet, try it on, make it roar. Then, we give him small amounts of candy, his mouth chocolate-smeared as he asks for “More?!”
As a child, Easter meant this very tradition: eggs, a treasure hunt, chocolate bunnies. We were non-practicing Jews in rural New England; every year, we celebrated with family friends, after they had come home from church. My sister and I were younger than their grown daughters, so we were the ones to get baskets full of candy and the opportunity to hunt for dyed hard boiled eggs in their backyard. Some years it was so warm we wore shorts and t-shirts; other years, we had to dig through snow. One year, we found an egg in the crook of a tree that had been forgotten from the previous year — we didn’t realize it until we unpeeled it back inside!
I always loved going to their house for Easter. It wasn’t my holiday, but like Christmas, there was enough of a secular culture around the celebration that I felt comfortable participating. It was a little like my own observance of Judaism growing up: our family holidays were limited to Chanukah and Passover, easy to celebrate and requiring no fasting or temple-going.
So far, we have celebrated it all with K: lit Chanukah candles next to our Christmas tree, hosted Passover Seder, opened Easter baskets. He is not quite two; right now, neither God not Santa not the Easter Bunny has any sway. And yet, as I watch him pull new clothes out of the Easter basket his grandparents gave him, I wonder: how much longer before we have to start these hard conversations? This is what Mommy’s family believes, this is what Daddy’s family believes, and we are in the middle…
At dinner my mother-in-law says, “Happy Resurrection Day!” Another reminder that before long, we will need to frame this interfaith family. But for now, I feel happy, because today I resurrected one of my favorite memories from my own childhood, one that we can share together.