When our kids were little – like 7, 5, and 1 – we started a tradition of hiding eggs for them to find on Easter morning. Vincent was too small to participate that year, but Bobby and Abby happily ran around the living room, dining room, and family room ferreting out the colored hard-boiled eggs Maria and I had hidden the night before under sofa cushions, on top of picture frames, and on the windowsills behind the drapes.
But trouble quickly developed. Bobby, older and by nature more competitive, discovered twice as many as Abby, and quickly exhausted the cache of eggs to be found. He proudly displayed the eight eggs that were “his” as Abby mournfully moped over her paltry three. And to top it off, Abby had found the “rotten egg” – the one egg we deliberately made ugly by dipping it repeatedly into each of the red, green, yellow, and blue dye cups until it was a nauseating, mottled gray-brown. Finding that egg was not a good thing.
We quickly moved on from real eggs to fake eggs for the Easter morning hunt, and relegated the “rotten egg” to a place of shame in the center of the communal Easter basket on the dining room table. The “eggs” we now hid were plastic, and came in festive spring colors. Approximately the size of real eggs, they snapped apart into two pieces at the middle so you could fill them with jelly beans, M&M’s, or Hershey’s Kisses. These were immensely popular with the kids, because whoever found the most eggs got the most candy.
And again, the two older kids (now 9 and 7 to Vincent’s 3) dominated the finding-game, with Bobby edging out Abby by a fairly wide margin. Because Vincent was so small we convinced the older two to leave a few eggs behind for him, lest he be left with nothing.
But the system was still flawed.
After only one season using that model, we started labeling the plastic eggs with a dot of masking tape on each with a handwritten “B,” “A,” or “V” so each kid would know whose eggs were whose. If you found someone else’s egg, you left it in place and could taunt your sibling when they had a hard time finding it. Anyone unlucky enough to have eggs still hidden when the other two had found all theirs had to endure the “you’re getting warm … warmer … now cooler, etc.” game to locate their final eggs.
As the kids got a little older, mere candy in the eggs wasn’t sufficient inducement for the hunt, so we started loading the eggs with money. Because of fierce sibling rivalry, we strictly counted out the same number of eggs for each kid and distributed the same amount of money among their eggs. I think we started with a total of $20 per kid when they were smaller, and progressed to a total of $50 in each kid’s eggs every year.
But shortly after we started with the plastic eggs, there was a year when even Maria and I couldn’t remember where we had hidden them all, resulting in a frustrating 15 minutes that Easter morning with the whole family poking around under the furniture.
The next year we kept a detailed list. Late on Easter Eve, Maria and I filled the plastic eggs with cash and candy and then walked around the house together, one of us with a basket of labeled eggs for hiding, and the other following with a legal pad and pen, noting the location of every egg in each room.
It had taken us a number of years, but at last we had a foolproof egg-hiding system. It was fair, because the kids all got the same number of eggs and quantity of cash, and their eggs were labeled so no one could poach. And because of our master list, no one got shorted even if Maria and I were too muddled to remember where the heck we’d squirreled away all those eggs.
Soon the kids were all teenagers, going through the motions of enjoying the Easter morning egg hunt just to please us. They were in it only for the cash. Sometimes one or all of them wouldn’t even roll out of bed until almost noon, leaving no time for the egg hunt before Maria and I had to start preparing Easter dinner. Eventually the tradition died away entirely, and we just gave each of them Easter cards with a little cash gift.
But should grandchildren ever appear at our house on Easter, we’ll be ready. I’m sure those plastic eggs are someplace in the basement, too. I just have to find them.