My childhood memories of Easter in our small town in 1960’s New Jersey are so vivid they are in Technicolor. My mother would spend weeks sewing a very feminine (she wanted me to look like a girl at least one day a year), very coordinated outfit that was completed with a straw hat, a pair of white gloves, and patent leather Mary Janes. I would skip off to church with my parents and four older siblings, and after mass we would participate in the community Easter egg hunt.
I can see the green field now with the brightly colored eggs peeking out from behind the trees and shrubs. It was always a sunny day with blue skies and moderate temperatures. Then we would return home and the sugar bacchanalia would commence. I would spend the rest of the afternoon trying to protect my chocolate bunny from my three greedy brothers. Usually my father would be the one to bite its head off.
There is a family legend that one Easter morning my siblings awoke to baskets of headless bunnies. My father claimed the mice ate them. We all knew better. Despite the gluttony of the men in my family, the warmth of those Easter Sundays is what I recall first.
With these pleasant memories of my childhood in mind, I looked forward to sharing these rituals with my own child one day. A year after my arrival in Vermont I married a native Vermonter and settled down in this great state. Two years later our son Carlos was born, and as we held our newborn in our arms we cooed and planned future holiday traditions.
On Carlos’ second Easter I dragged my husband away from his Sunday coffee and loaded our son into the car for his first Easter egg hunt. I didn’t even notice the weather as I threw a quaint ribboned basket into the back seat for him to collect candy and eggs in. As we drove up to the Trapp Family Lodge, my husband grumbled about the cold, damp weather. I cheerfully reminded him this was Carlos’ first Easter egg hunt and I wanted it to be special.
We stepped out of the car and were walking toward the field when Carlos let out a blood-curdling scream. I looked down at him, certain his life was in danger when I noticed him pointing ahead with a look of abject terror on his face. I followed the line of his chubby finger to see a young woman in an Easter bunny costume. It was not going as I had pictured. I scooped him up and made a wide turn around the evil Easter bunny woman and we gathered with the rest of the parents. You could tell the experienced ones as they had a look on their faces similar to my husband’s. The look said, “Let this be over quickly so I can go back to my warm bed!”
As the hunt commenced I felt the first drops of precipitation. In that moment I realized just how cold it was. Soon the sleet started to come down heavy. There was a quick grabbing of eggs and candy (with the parents helping out in a hurry to get it the hell over with). My husband returned with Carlos on his shoulders and they were both shoving candy in their mouths in an attempt to derive some pleasure from the experience.
At that point our hosts began serving the free Ben & Jerry’s ice cream with polar fleece gloves on. As we stood there in 30-degree weather with sleet pounding on our heads and shoveling ice cream in our mouths with gloved hands, Carlos began to cry. In my disappointment and disillusionment I suggested we head for the car and on to home. That was the first time I saw my husband smile that day.
Okay, so after my 12th snowy Easter I’ve finally accepted it. The days of green, sunny egg hunts are probably behind me as I plan to live out my days in Vermont. They just don’t seem to come that way here. I should have known when during my first spring here I heard about the sunrise service on Mount Mansfield where the congregation skis down the mountain at its completion. That’s okay. It’s a worthwhile tradeoff for living in a place that is God’s country ten months a year (I just couldn’t include mud season).
As Carlos has grown we probably won’t go on another Easter egg hunt (can you hear my husband’s relief?), but I will assure any child I come across that the Easter bunny does indeed visit Vermont despite the weather. Between you and me, I wouldn’t blame him if he were down in the Florida Keys sippin’ margaritas with Mrs. Bunny.