Illustration by James Callahan
One of the many challenges of parenting a, shall we say, exuberant child is that holidays are a really big deal. The Boy starts planning his attack on the next one the day after the last one. He's thinking about his Halloween costume the day after his July birthday. As soon as Halloween is over, he makes his Christmas list. The post-Christmas glee runs right into Valentine's Day, and on Feb. 15, we start looking forward to his favorite holiday of them all — Easter.
I've got theories about why Easter is so exciting for my kid. For starters, he's always been a huge fan of bunnies. Most of his favorite picture books featured bunny protagonists, and Fluffy A. Bunny, his well-loved stuffed rabbit, accompanies him to bed each night. So, when he was introduced to the concept of a benevolent bunny demi-god who visits your house while you are sleeping and brings you gifts, he bought into it without a second thought. In fact, as a toddler, he was such an unabashed Easter Bunny fan that we have multiple years' worth of photos of the two of them together at the mall, The Boy grinning wildly, not wearing his Easter best or even a presentable set of clean, matching clothes.
We never got the luxury of planning visits to the Easter Bunny. We'd just happen to be at the mall in early spring and come across the Bunny Village; like Santa's house, it seems to appear overnight and earlier each year. While the other parents were trying in vain to coax a smile or at least a less traumatized expression from their well-groomed, camera-ready children, we were giving in to a grubby boy in holey jeans begging please, please could he get his picture taken with the Easter Bunny? Please? And how do you say no? You don't.
Another factor is that there are two major family gatherings on Easter weekend, one at the house where my maternal grandmother grew up in Buckingham, and another at the house where my grandfather was raised in Bon Air. Spending a weekend hunting eggs and eating cupcakes with his cousins in the same yards where multiple generations of ancestors have played probably gives him some warm fuzzies deep down, whether he realizes why or not. It also doesn't hurt that he gets a chance to find a golden egg containing a monetary prize instead of jelly beans. He has yet to be the lucky winner, but he still says every year that he's had the best time ever.
Then, there's the basket itself. We don't — excuse me, the Easter Bunny doesn't — go overboard on the basket. There are no big-ticket items, just your run-of-the-mill Peeps, jelly beans and a sucker or two, plus a hollow chocolate rabbit of modest proportions. Then, because The Boy is a toy guy and not so much a candy guy, there's one toy — not a big-ticket item, just something that will last after the candy gets stale.
When The Boy was 3, Tad and I helped the Easter Bunny do some shopping at Target. We scoured the aisles of the toy section, rejecting plastic dinosaurs, toy trucks and bouncy balls. Finally, on the Lego aisle, I spotted an item that combined two of his early passions — Legos and robots. Specifically, a Bionicle. In a staggering understatement, I said to Tad, "He'll probably like this." Six years later, we have not missed the release of a single Bionicle toy, movie or TV show. He wears Bionicle T-shirts, does his schoolwork in Bionicle notebooks and brushes his teeth with a Bionicle toothbrush. So I think, somewhere back in the wiring of his brain, the concept of Easter is forever tied to things that are incredibly and amazingly awesome. Like bunnies, cousins and Bionicles.
I don't know how many more magical Easters we have ahead of us. Eventually, The Boy will join the knot of teenage cousins who stand at the back of the yard during the egg hunt, snapping their gum and looking too cool for cupcakes. This year, though, the Easter Bunny is still his hero, and he's still holding us hostage with dissertations on what might be in his basket and whether or not he will finally find the golden egg. And I will feel extra lucky to be the mother of an exhaustingly enthusiastic Boy.