Jessie Veeder, Published April 19 2014
Coming Home: Childhood Easter egg hunts helped us find more than candy
My mom zipped my coat up to my chin, hiding the top of my Easter dress and leaving the frills to float above my snow boots, creating a perfect uniform for a task that required agility and patience, athleticism and all of Spider-man’s senses.
I was 6 years old, and soon I would be knee-deep in some combination of cow poop and gumbo as I attempted to cross the barbed-wire fence with that dress intact. I’d claw and crawl my way up the steep part of the butte on my way to the row of plum trees where I swear I saw something purple tucked in the nook of one of those trees.
The traditional Easter egg hunt at the ranch is one of those memories my cousins and I acquired at such young ages we got to grow up believing we survived the most dramatic, life-threatening farmstead adventures on our quest for eggs filled with jelly beans.
At family gatherings in years to come, we celebrated the fact that we came out of it alive, recounting rescue missions, involuntary gumbo hill sliding, cactus stuck in butts, hay-bale jumping, candy sharing, the most embarrassing outfits and the traditional end-of-hunt photo shoot next to the chokecherry tree that wouldn’t dare grow a bud in this unseasonal Easter weather.
Because there aren’t many holidays in North Dakota during which kids get to break free from their stocking caps and snow pants.
I’m not sure who hid those impossible eggs. It was probably my dad and my uncles sent out before church by the women in their lives with specific instructions. But in my memory (after I figured out that the Easter bunny wasn’t an option), it was my gramma who put them there, so I’d like to stick with that.
I’d like to think of her filling those plastic eggs with Milk Duds and Skittles and a scrunched-up Peep. She’d walk up that little butte beside the house in the horse pasture, crossing the barbed-wire fence and braving the slick mud to put the blue egg under a rock and the pink egg under the seat of that leftover plow. She’d hide the small eggs for the little ones closer to the house, in the hay yard and in the lower branch on the chokecherry tree.
In the flower pot.
And the hardboiled egg dressed in plastic shrink-wrap? She put that in a place no child would ever look until July and the summer sun and heat had turned it into something far less pleasant.
Funny how things are easier to find when you can smell them.
Easter is upon us now, and there hasn’t been an egg hunt on this farmstead for over 20 years. When our gramma died, we moved our tradition to my aunt and uncle’s farmstead farther south. Then we all grew taller, got older and moved away, chasing important jobs and important people, some of us making important people of our own.
Important little people who, today, are wearing their own frilly dresses and Easter ties, sitting on the floor of grandmothers’ houses, counting and sorting candy from plastic eggs.
Today I’m convinced there’s still a plastic Easter egg on this ranch somewhere, hiding in a the wheelwell of the old combine or buried under the old growth in the tree row. And someday, when the cold wind is whipping through the hair escaping from my stocking cap, I will find it, worn out and faded from years of unpredictable weather. I will pick it up triumphantly, reveling for a moment.
Then I will put it back.
Because some stories don’t really need to be so true.
And some things don’t really need to be found.
Some things just need to be remembered.
Jessie Veeder is a musician and writer living with her husband on a ranch near Watford City, N.D. Readers can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.