On Easter Sunday my entire family (and some extra loved ones) gathered at my mom's place for an Easter egg hunt and dinner. In all it was 10 children under the age of ten and 16 adults. It was to be a simple holiday. No large baskets full of chocolate and candy. Just a simple outdoor egg hunt, some good food and great company. The only little extra we had all planned for was some kite flying. A sure sign of spring. A brand new kite tied onto a fresh spool of string. The sound of rubber boots when you run... You know that sound? Kind of hollow and flompy. The dads would take the kids out in the field and let those kids run up and down the furrows until they tired or the kites were lifted skyward by the warm spring breeze. Eventually the kids would give up and the dads would start running.... Or so this is how I saw it. It was the scene of my childhood for many Easter Sunday afternoons.
This Easter would be different...
The egg hunt was sublime. How ten kids could be so perfectly delighted with a hunt for a bunch of plastic eggs is a beautiful and mysterious thing to me. They all stood at the door, baskets in hand, like a bunch of wild horses at the gate. And when the door opened they ran around the yard plucking the brightly coloured eggs from branches, under steps, inside planters, balanced in downspouts and laying in random clusters on the ground. The sound and the sight of these kids was a joy to behold. One might think that they would be rushing to fill their baskets. Boastful to have the most eggs or have filled their baskets the fastest. But this was not what I witnessed at all. My 9 month old babe had a basket too. She was watching it all from the comfort of her sling on my hip. I sidled up to some Lola height eggs in the branches of the spruce trees so she could pluck her own but soon her basket was overflowing with the donations of all the other children. Eggs were being picked up and plopped in whatever basket looked a little sparse. Some of the older or more eager children would call to the little ones when they had found a cluster ideal for sharing. There was this incredible civility about the whole activity and the adult observers were grinning from ear to ear. Is this it? Have we finally reached the pay off for all those years of hovering to manage the hurt feelings or misdirected energy of our spirited preschoolers? Whatever it was no one was complaining... In fact no one said much, I think for fear of jinxing it.
When the hunt was over we went inside for an incredibly civilized meal as well. There seemed to be no major meltdowns about who would sit next to whom. Or tears about gravy leaking out of the potato well and contaminating brussel sprouts. Plates were cleaned and tummies were full. The women folk began the pleasant chore of finding containers for the leftovers and loading the dishwasher. Laughing and teasing while eating the crunchy bits of stuffing that get left on the inside of the serving dish. This is when my perfect Easter Sunday was to manifest itself with the sight of half a dozen kites flying in the sky outside the kitchen window.... Not a chance.
Last year our changing family dynamics and a 20 year old car in need of some extensive repairs led us to buy a new(ish) car. The 1990 Dodge Spirit that had been our trusty chariot for more than ten years was put out to pasture at my mom's. It was a perplexing decision to retire the old dear. She had never really failed us. We had to remind ourselves that she had begun to use a lot of gas, the brakes locked when called upon to stop quickly, the trunk was no longer watertight and so therefore smelled... real bad. But after more than a year of sitting on mom's lawn the old bucket needed nothing more than a bit of battery charging and she fired right up. So while most of us puttered away in the kitchen my husband gathered up the two daredevil children and went out the Spirit for a bit of a spin around the yard. Sam (7 years old) and Sydney (8) piled into the front seat with Uncle David, one on the passenger seat and the other on his lap. He would operate the gas and brakes and they would "drive" the car. Pretty soon the windows were lined with children and grownups alike watching the kids drive around the 3 acre yard. Some of the other kids wanted to go outside but we wouldn't let them for fear they would be run over by a wreckless 8 year old driver. But as Uncle David pulled up on the front lawn to trade drivers we would send one or two more of the older children out to climb in the back seat. The little ones were begging to go out too and eventually we caved. They could get in the car but they were NOT allowed to drive. Soon there were nine children and one adult in that car. Dave would let them make a couple of rounds and then pull up on the front lawn where all the doors would fling open and the musical chairs would begin. On the longest straight stretch Dave would slow right down and then put his foot on the gas. Causing fits of laughter, screaming and feet to go flying up in the air as they fell back into the well worn seats. As they drove past the deck where most of us had gathered to watch they would all shout "Happy Easter" out the open windows. I don't know when I have ever felt so awash with the unbridled joy of a group of kids. Their grins were contagious and I wish I could have harnessed the energy. It was joy rising.
In the end 8 of those nine kids took the wheel. The youngest, pictured here, is three.
We had planned to donate that car to a charity this spring. Finally say goodbye to it and thank it for all those years of reliable service. But on Sunday I could envision that in a few short years that same gaggle of giggling kids could pile into that car and head into town to get slurpees at 7-eleven. Just as I had done, in a car ten years older than I was, testing the waters, spreading my wings....