"Please, please, please let me find an Easter egg! Just one egg!" It was my most fervent prayer as a 7-year-old. My cousins and their friends had almost filled their baskets, and I hadn't found a single egg. When I opened my eyes after my prayer of desperation, I almost stepped on a bright orange egg. Had it been in my path the entire time, or was it a miracle in a season of miracles? Beats me. I don't remember if I found another egg that Easter Sunday when we visited my grandparents in Oklahoma - if I did, I've forgotten its color - but I've had a partiality for orange dye ever since.
As a teenager, I helped boyfriend Ray and his mother hide eggs in a small glade at their farm for her Sunday School class to find. Then I cheated and helped the youngest class members fill their baskets because I remembered how traumatic an empty basket was for me.
Later, married to Ray, and the mother of sons whose March and April birthdays often fell during the Easter season, I planned several egg hunts for their parties. Real dyed eggs were supplemented with plastic eggs containing money, candy and small toys. I continued to help hapless kids who were as inept as I at finding hidden eggs, although I admit having trouble finding some eggs even though I selected their hiding places.
One of my favorite rites of Easter is dyeing eggs. As an adult, I have learned to artistically decorate them, but no elaborate egg of my creation matches the childhood thrill I received from printing MARSHA in white crayon on a freshly boiled egg and plunging it into dye to see my name magically appear.
One ritual of Easter I have not yet tried is giving up something for Lent. According to daughter-in-law Val, I should give up something that means a lot to me, otherwise, she says, the renouncement is pointless. So if I gave up something for Lent, I guess I'd have to give up dyeing eggs. Still, that might be easier than giving up ice cream like Val and grandchildren Gabe, Sammi and Zoe did - a forfeiture they greatly regretted at a recent birthday party. Val acknowledged, however, that's she's made up for her ice cream sacrifice by eating way too many M&Ms. It makes me wonder: Is substituting M&Ms for ice cream a legitimate Lenten loophole?
Granddaughter Zoe, 10, originally planned to give up "being so picky" but she found that impossible to do, so she settled on ice cream. Sister Vicki, a Lutheran, decided the practice of giving up something for Lent was a good exercise in discipline and bravely gave up sweets. Now that category, in my opinion, is just too broad. I can see giving up jelly beans, chocolate or even my favorite licorice, but sweets in general? I don't think so.
Frankly, I think I'll try to give up something for Lent next Easter. It was too late when I thought of it this year, although I could have done what Val's brother did as a teenager when - two weeks into Lent - he realized he hadn't formally given up anything and had to figure out what he could sacrifice that he hadn't already eaten. After careful deliberation, he gave up popcorn.
I know if Ray gave up something for Lent, it would be fish. Ray HATES fish and never eats it. Of course, his sacrifice would be meaningless, but it would be one he could stick to ... sort of like me giving up gourmet cooking and ironing clothes.
I am confident that Ray would never give up ham. And cooking ham is something I like best about Easter dinner. I might burn the rolls, detonate the sweet potatoes or cook asparagus into a mushy green pulp, but it is absolutely impossible to mess up baking a ham. Best of all, if I arrange pineapple slices on top and fill the little holes with maraschino cherries, it looks as if a professional chef prepared it.
Easter dinner at Grams' home always ended with her lamb cake. She baked made-from-scratch cake batter in a bread pan to form the lamb's body and poured the remaining batter into a small coffee can. She trimmed the cake baked in the coffee can into shapes of a lamb's head, ears and tail and attached them to the body with toothpicks. She frosted the whole thing with white 7-minute icing, covered it with shredded coconut and gave it raisin eyes.
Hmmmm ... I think for next year's Lent, I'll give up baking a lamb cake for Easter dinner.
I hope all the eggs in your basket are chocolate. Happy Easter!