This Easter was the first holiday that Jay experienced like a real little boy: He anticipated its arrival for a week; he thrilled to the rituals of the Easter Bunny, egg hunting, and chocolate consumption; and when it was over on Monday morning he asked, “Can we have Easter again?”
My brother Ryan and his wife Allison were visiting us over the weekend from New York City (you might recall them from a ‘goodbye Philadelphia‘ post last summer). They rarely make an appearance without some little trick up their sleeves. This time it was egg decorating. Caroline and I usually don’t have the wherewithal to organize this kind of thing but on Saturday afternoon, when I would have been ready to mark time until bedtime, Allison mixed cups of dye, laid out rows of stickers, and stewarded Jay through the decorating process.
Sunday morning Jay woke up to the news that the Easter Bunny was in his backyard right now, hiding the eggs we’d decorated the day before. Jay heard this and his eyes went wide. His first questions, though, were logistical:
Is he in the garage? No, he’s in the backyard.
Is he a friend? Yeah, he’s very nice.
Is he going to eat the eggs? He already had breakfast.
In the process of explaining the Easter Bunny to Jay it occurred to me that he has reached a developmental stage I hadn’t anticipated: He’s old enough to understand the literal story of the Easter Bunny but not old enough yet to understand the magic in it. Put another way, he can’t distinguish between an airplane flying overhead, a dog running up the street, and a bunny hiding candy-filled eggs in his backyard. All three fall into the category of: If you say so.
We had a breakfast of cinnamon rolls from a can and Skyped with my cousin in New York and Caroline’s mom and sister in DC. Allison and Ryan began to worry that the robust Ann Arbor squirrels might get to the eggs first if we didn’t hasten outside so we cut the Skyping short, equipped Jay with a red metal bucket, and headed to the backyard.
Jay hunted eggs with uncontained glee. There were a few obvious ones in the middle of the yard which he snatched up first. The ones on the periphery, tucked into flower boxes and behind stands of wilting daffodils, required more coaching. The fact that he hadn’t fully earned the discovery did nothing to diminish his enthusiasm upon spying an egg.
After all the eggs had been collected the five of us rested on the small slope in our backyard. It was breezy but sunny. We sat on the long grass amid the dandelions and munched on Skittles, jelly beans, and M&Ms. There was a certain equality to the mood. As Jay sat beside me on the grass and leaned against my brother’s legs, it felt for a short while like we were all sharing the same experience: The thrill of a backyard transformed, the pleasure of candy, the warm sun on our skin.