She loved all the holidays because it was a chance for her family to gather and celebrate, but she was partial to Easter.
It wasn’t the clothes, although we normally got new outfits on Easter; it was getting ready for the annual Easter Egg hunt at Aunt Edra Mae’s house.
We raised chickens behind our house in Sloss, and she’d start saving eggs a week or so before the big day.
The Saturday night before Easter, she’d boil several dozen eggs on the stove. As the eggs rattled in the pot, she’d clear off a space on the kitchen table and set out about a half dozen coffee cups. In each cup, she’d put about 20 drops of food coloring along with a little vinegar and water.
She’d set out spoons to dip out the eggs once they were colored, but more times than I can count, I’d dive in the cup with my fingers. They’re a lot easier to get out that way, but you wind up with fingers and thumbs the color of a summer rainbow.
I remember one year when my old sister Mary (she loves it when I call her that) stuck her thumb in a cup of green coloring and touched my forehead. When I looked in the mirror, I had a green thumb print right between my eyes. I tried to give her a print too, but she was a lot faster than me in those days.
We both laughed, but it wasn’t nearly as funny that night when I had to scrub the hide off my forehead trying to remove the print.
Each year after church, the family would load the car with food, cakes and eggs before heading out to Aunt Edra Mae’s house.
Mama’s sisters were great cooks, and they always tried to out do each other. At lunch, everyone would eat until we almost spewed.
When the eating was done, the menfolk would take a wheelbarrow of eggs out to the front yard to hide. Most of the women would sit on the porch in the shade and watch the kids hunt eggs, but Mama enjoyed getting in on the action. She normally teamed up with one of the younger kids to help even out the odds.
My cousin Jimmy was a lot older than most of the cousins, and he was a master at hiding eggs. He’d hide about half of the eggs in plain sight where the little kids could find them, and he’d hide another 25 percent to make it interesting for the bigger kids. The last 25 percent, you couldn’t find with a bloodhound and a backhoe.
He’d put them in the corn crib, in the tailpipes of old tractors, in the knotholes of fence posts and old trees. One year he hid the prize egg in an ant bed. My cousin who found it had so many ant bites that it looked like he had the measles.
Mama never carried an Easter basket because she chose to help the little kids who were too little to find a lot of eggs. She was also pretty good at blocking the older kids too, which gave the younger ones an extra second to grab the eggs.
I remember the last Easter she was at home. She didn’t feel well, but we rolled her out on the deck in the sun and wrapped her in a fuzzy blanket so she could watch the egg hunt.
Her eyes weren’t as good as they once were, but she managed to pick out the smallest child in the hunt and watched them closely. That’s the kid I chose to help. It made her smile.
We’ll get together this Easter at my sister’s house, and after lunch we’ll hunt eggs. I’ll do my best to figure out which kid my mama would have helped.