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Before Chicks Wore Minis
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My memories of Easter go way back, to before chicks wore mini-skirts, back to when they gave chicks away at gas stations. Those were the days.

Easter was what you get when you substituted a magic rabbit for a magic fat guy from the North Pole and a basket of candy and some dyed hard boiled eggs for great heaps of brightly wrapped presents? That's right, a sort of second-rate Christmas. On the holiday scale Easter rated below Halloween. My trick-or-treat bag held more candy than my Easter basket and although some spoil sports gave out apples at least no one plopped any hard boiled eggs into the sack. Even the tangerines that took up so much valuable space in the Christmas stockings were preferable to eggs. What do you do with dozens of hard boiled eggs? I recall choking down egg salad sandwiches until the Fourth Of July (A holiday that barely deserved a ranking because fireworks were illegal in Pennsylvania and school was out for the summer anyway.)

I did enjoy coloring the eggs and hunting for them Easter Morning after they'd been hidden by the bunny even if it wasn't quite as thrilling as roaming dark streets in weird costumes. My family was lucky enough to have a big lawn where eggs could hide behind tree trunks, in clumps of weeds, amidst the stones in the rock garden, up in the crook of the huge maple tree in the front yard, in the corner of the sandbox, underneath a flower pot by the backdoor, up in the latticework of the rose arbor.

One early Easter it snowed. Four or five inches of heavy wet snow. My gloves were soaked through as soon as I poked around the shrubbery in front of the house. I guess the rabbit must have carried out its task in the small hours of the night because there were no tracks leading to the eggs. Those eggs were a sorry sight after they'd been hunted down and carted inside. Between sitting in the snow and my wet gloves, their colors were runny, the designs smeared. And after I'd worked so hard dipping them into the different pots of dye at various angles, blocking out patterns with a clear wax crayon. (Turned out to be good practice for the glories of tie-dye.)

The dyed eggs were left out for the Easter Bunny to retrieve and hide, you see. Which also served to prove the reality of the bunny, just as the absence of the cookies and milk set out for Santa proved that he had, indeed, visited.

There was more to the holiday than colored eggs, but not much that enthused me. I've never been fond of Easter candy. The big, candy eggs are so overly sweet they make my teeth ache and plain chocolate is...well...plain.

The fluffy chicks were more appealing. Not to eat, mind you. Although since my grandparents' chicken coop never got overcrowded, despite the traditional influx of Easter chicks....well, that's something I prefer not to think about. I suppose it taints my memory. That and pondering the fate of all those chicks they used to give away at gas stations. Sure, the ones we brought home had a coop to go too ( and never mind the chicken that showed up on my dinner plate months later. I prefer to think I was eating fowl with whom I was not acquainted, that I had not romped with in the grass.)

One year I had measles or some other childhood disease (back then there were too many to keep track of) which required me to be confined to my room for what seemed forever. I watched the adorable, baby chicks grow up in a cardboard box near my bed, which is another reason I don't recall them as fondly as I might. There's nothing uglier than an adolescent rooster, unless maybe an adolescent human male.

What Easter memories have I left out? Oh yes, the religious aspect. How you get from the crucifixion to chocolate rabbits is beyond me. Once or twice my family piled into the car and went to the drive-in where there was a sunrise service. All I remember is being half-asleep and impatient to search for eggs while the speaker in the window droned on, the words crackling and garbled. The show was longer and more boring than Lawrence of Arabia which I was also dragged to the drive-in for -- and no popcorn.

Anyway, I don't think I really believed in death at that young age, let alone resurrection. Death was just something that happened to cattle rustlers and bank robbers in television westerns. A dramatic device. I'd roll around on the ground at play, gleefully pretending to be shot dead and resurrected myself every time.

So the egg hunt was the big thing. Mysteriously, almost every year, there was an egg which eluded the hunt, only to be found weeks later, while I was mowing lawn, or weeding, a thrilling find, a faded artifact of the past nestled someplace I must have neglected to look. Best of all, you wouldn't dare use a month old egg in a sandwich. In later years I've wondered if those eggs had really been overlooked during the hunt, or saved and planted, but I never asked -- even after I figured out the Easter Bunny ruse -- and now it is too late.

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