Illustration by Kelsey Dzintars

Now that my kids are grown, the ritual of Easter egg coloring has finally bitten the dust in our household. Or so I thought.

BY EDNOR THERRIAULT

Springtime in Montana is a wonderful awakening. It’s a time when crocuses and tulips tentatively push their colorful shoots through the thawing soil, and the landscape begins to shrug off another long, hard winter’s worth of snow, exposing all that dog crap in the backyard.

One of the official harbingers of spring is Easter, which means so many different things to all of us. You know what Easter means to you. If you’re Christian, Easter celebratesthe resurrection of Christ three days after his crucifixion, as described in the New Testament, wrapping up a 40-day observance that begins with Lent. The Jewish faith celebrates Passover, which sometimes overlaps Easter and commemorates the freeing of the Israelites from slavery in ancient Egypt. For us secular humanists, Easter means eggs are a buck a dozen at Albertsons.

Whatever your religious leanings, when it comes to the “Big Three” candy-producing holidays, Easter is right up there with Christmas and Halloween. Throw in a few piñata birthday parties and your kids will have a year-round supply of candy, and your dentist will be able to buy that third home in the Hamptons. Everybody wins.

And who delivers all that candy to your home on Easter? No, not Amazon, although they’re surely involved somewhere in the supply chain. I’m talking about the Easter Bunny, of course. The whole Easter Bunny legend has its roots in Germany, not surprising for a culture that gave us such horrifying things as the accordion, Nosferatu, and Hefeweizen beer.

The Americanized version of the Easter Bunny goes something like this: The mysterious nocturnal creature is said to enter each home the night before Easter when the kids are asleep, and when they wake up at oh-dark-thirty the next morning they hunt around for the baskets hidden by this giant, night-dwelling rodent that reportedly wears a colorful felt vest and wire-rimmed glasses. And, oddly, no pants. Never pants. When the delighted children locate the baskets, they’re overjoyed to find nestled in a bed of plastic grass—in a variety of colors that don’t appear in nature—a bounty of candy and small toys, a chocolate likeness of the bunny himself, and a clutch of brightly colored eggs, purportedly laid by said rabbit. And you thought the Santa Claus story was far-fetched.

“Finding some pea gravel in an egg was nothing compared to the sugar babies incident of 2005, however, which earned me a lifetime ban from egg-stuffing and almost ruined that year’s egg hunt.”

The Easter egg is the childhood currency of this holiday and the best way to amass a fortune in hard-boiled chicken ova is to hunt for them. Easter Egg hunts are everywhere. There’s always an Easter egg hunt at your local university and they even have an Easter Egg Roll on the White House lawn, a tradition that dates back to 1878 during the Gilded Age, a time of American prosperity when chocolate rabbits were still solid. These public events rarely use actual eggs, preferring to give the kids a hollow, plastic, lawsuit-resistant egg that contains a piece of candy, or perhaps a coupon for a free car detailing.

When my kids were still in grade school we hosted a few Easter egg hunts at our house, also using plastic eggs. Over the years, I gained a distinct reputation as an unreliable egg stuffer. Occasionally when I ran out of candy, I’d put in a couple small rocks or perhaps some drywall screws. Whichever kid found one of those eggs— usually high up in a tree— would rattle it and crack it open only to be disappointed and somewhat confused. I always thought it provided a valuable life lesson. I wish I could remember what it was.

Finding some pea gravel in an egg was nothing compared to the Sugar Babies Incident of 2005, however, which earned me a lifetime ban from egg-stuffing and almost ruined that year’s egg hunt. I’d poured a full bag of Sugar Babies next to a pile of deer droppings in the front yard, and as soon as I had an audience of three or four kids I got down on all fours and started popping Sugar Babies into my mouth. The resulting panic caused a few tears and strained some friendships, and I imagine was responsible for a couple kids requiring intensive therapy a few years down the road.

Even though I’m not allowed to stuff plastic eggs anymore, I still like to color the real ones. Once our kids were old enough to get into the act, it really got fun. We always get that Paas egg-dyeing kit from the grocery store, the kind where you drop a tablet of dye into a cup of vinegar. As a drinking man who’s encountered more than one wastebasket-sized jar of pickled eggs behind the bar at countless watering holes, this makes total sense to me. We cover the kitchen table with a plastic tablecloth and set up a series of on-the-rocks glasses, which are just the right size for one egg. Or for one cocktail to be enjoyed while the eggs are boiling.

Both kids and my wife are pretty artistic and our Easter egg coloring sessions have, of late, taken on a competitive edge. We started augmenting the dye with Sharpies, crayons, glitter, sequins, Swarovski crystals, feathers and other supplies you might find in the closeout bin at Michael’s. I got into the spirit too, and eventually found myself spending three hours on one egg, when everybody else had tricked out a dozen apiece. I realized I was in too deep last year when my wife intervened while I was at the kitchen counter shooting a video of an egg that was covered in meticulous black Sharpie lines, carefully patterned after
a spinning wheel in an obscure television demonstration from the early 1950s. “Watch this,” I said as I hit the record button and gave the egg a spin. “Even if you’re watching this on a black and white TV, you should be seeing colors on this egg.”

My daughter also realized I had a problem when, two Easters ago, I’d used Sharpies to color one egg in bright yellows, reds and oranges to look like flames were shooting up from the butt end. I taped a length of fishing line to the pointy end, and had my daughter capture a video while I slowly lowered the suspended egg toward the lens, all the while screaming, “Oh my God, Houston! We’ve reentered the atmosphere at too steep an angle! We’re burning aliiiiive!”

Even with my sloth-like production speed, we’re left every Easter with several dozen hard-boiled eggs all colored up with no place to go. It’s a good thing I love eggs. That reminds me—I’ve also been asked by my family to quit pulling a “Cool Hand Luke” on my son: “My boy says he can eat 50 eggs, he can eat 50 eggs.”

However you celebrate Easter, I hope you and your family have a good one this year. Maybe I’ll start an online petition: If we can get the Easter Bunny to cut out the middleman, he can just bring egg salad sandwiches.

Ednor Therriault is a Missoula-based humorist, writer and musician who has published six books and released five CDs of original music under the moniker Bob Wire.