The Easter that Wasn’t

Easter was a pretty big deal in my family growing up. It wasn’t always a new dress for me or a new leisure suit for my brother. But it was always an egg hunt. And it was always a basket full of things that were just slightly off beat—like bathing suits and beach towels and boxes of raisins and candy on clearance.

It was. Always.

Until Easter 1985, when I skipped down the stairs after pulling on my church dress, rounded the corner into the kitchen and gazed down into the family room at the hearth where my Easter basket…


There was no Easter basket.

Where was my Easter basket?

“Mom, where’s my Easter basket?” I asked. “Today’s Easter, right?” My mother looked up from her breakfast, wearing a look of genuine surprise.

“Well, yes, but I didn’t do Easter baskets this year,” she answered. My mouth flopped open on its hinges.

“Why in the world not?” My mind began racing with the excuses she might have that were even marginally acceptable. She’d had a mild stroke. She’d been detained at the border trying to come across with deluxe Mexican chocolate. My grandmother was hospitalized suddenly and my mother had spent the night tending to her because the nurses were all on strike. My father was missing and she’d been posting flyers on every signpost in the city of Tallahassee.

“Because I just figured you were both too old now.”

That was not on my list of acceptable excuses. And what does “you were both too old now” mean unless you are a twin? I was not and am not a twin. My older brother got TWO MORE Easter baskets than I did, because he somehow skirted the Age Appropriate Police. Why was he not too old at 14 in 1983 when he was the age I am now?

I walked down the three stairs into our sunken family room and sat down on the couch like a girl who’d just been dumped. My mother was thinking through it.

“I’m sorry you are disappointed. I had no idea,” she said.

“It’s fine,” I replied, though it wasn’t fine.

I went about my morning with a dirge playing in my head and then climbed in the car to head to church. The church thing was not any different. This was our regular Sunday routine. Today had become a regular Sunday.

When we drove up the long church driveway, my dad dropped my mom at the door and then drove into the dirt parking lot to let the rest of us out. Our friend, Jean, had pulled into a spot moments before us and was standing at her car, with the passenger door open.

I got out and grabbed my bible.

“Hey!” She called. “Both of you come over here. I have something for you!” My eyes widened. What could this be? I walked over to her little gray Celica and she pulled two 12” solid chocolate bunnies out of her front passenger seat, one for me and one for my brother.

“Happy Easter!” she said, smiling. Happy Easter, indeed!

“Happy Easter!” we replied, grinning as our dreams began to reinflate with color and hope.  I don’t think she had any idea how perfect her timing was. I don’t remember if we told her. She didn’t receive anything from us in return.

I took that bunny into the church building and sat it on the pew next to me during the assembly. Nobody was going to persuade me to do otherwise. I kept the bunny safe and alive until late that afternoon when my desire for sugar exceeded my desire for strange companionship. I ate the ears off. And then the head. I knew I really shouldn’t eat the entire thing in one sitting, but what a day it had been. And having only a chocolate torso looking at me seemed so deviant and tragic.

So I ate him. All of him.

And then I placed the empty box strategically outside my mom’s bedroom door as a reminder. Maybe next year I’d get lucky and she would shift the age requirements.

Happy Easter. You’re never too old for it.

Easter 1977