I was talking to my sixth-grade nephew the other day about his parents hosting the Gilliland family annual Easter gathering this year. “So, Gabe,” I asked, “are you going to hunt Easter eggs this year?”
Being in the sixth grade, I thought maybe he was at the age where he might be thinking that Easter isn’t “cool” anymore. But the answer I got was nothing of the kind.
I do not recall his exact words, but with almost no hesitation he looked at me like he was asking if I was crazy and said something like: “Uh, yeah, why wouldn’t I? It’s fun and I get lots of candy.”
His response tickled me, partly because it seemed so honest and forthright, and partly because I thought it sounded exactly like something I would have said at his age.
I have no idea how old I was when I hunted Easter eggs for the last time. But I do know I always loved a good Easter egg hunt. And, to this day, I take great pleasure in hiding eggs, hoping I pick a spot that none of the youngsters are able to find, until it gets to the point where we have to play that, “now you’re getting hotter, now you’re getting colder,” game.
I have no idea why I always liked hunting Easter eggs so much. Maybe it was kind of like looking for hidden treasure, although back in my day there were no, or very few, treat-filled plastic eggs. Mom took care of the candy and gifts, and we received them in a big basket on Easter morning. And I probably continued to get one into my first year or two of college.
More than hunting eggs, though, I think what I really liked was the competition of the whole thing. Yes, I was one of those kids that always had to try to find more eggs than anyone else. Passing by an easy-to-find egg so a smaller kid could grab it – even my younger siblings – probably never even entered my mind. Nope, in my mind, the goal was to find more eggs than anyone else, and if I didn’t, I wasn’t quite satisfied.
When I was a little kid there was a big Easter egg hunt every year at the Highland County Fairgrounds, which I believe was sponsored by the Hillsboro Lions Club, but I’m not sure. Anyway, in each age group, there were these silver and gold eggs and whoever found them won some kind of big prize. I never found one, and I clearly remember being disappointed when I didn’t, because I knew that I had tried as hard as anyone.
I did not participate in a lot of the fairgrounds Easter egg hunts, but I took part in a lot of other ones, from a few in Florida to one on a beach beside the Red River in Arkansas. Still, the ones in the backyard, with siblings and maybe cousins, were the best. Maybe that was because I was older than my three siblings and I was more likely to find the most eggs. Maybe it was because time spent with the family was always the best and most comfortable. Maybe it was because the grass was turning green, spring was in the air, and I knew I could start playing outside again after a long winter.
Whatever the reason, I always liked an Easter egg hunt. In fact, I liked them so much that my oldest brother and I found a way to make the fun last even after the hunting was over.
Back in our egg hunting days, we hunted mostly boiled eggs. I’m not sure I ever ate one, but we found good use for them.
My brother would probably tell you he doesn’t remember this, but here’s what we’d do. We’d take like five eggs apiece and line up across from each other on the linoleum floor in the kitchen. Then on a specific count, we’d each take an egg and roll them at each other. On the first collision the outer shell would start to crack, then we’d roll them at each other again, and again, again. Before long the shell would start to fall off in pieces, then the white part would start to crack. Finally, when the yolk fell out of someone’s eggs, the other guy was the winner.
It was just like a demolition derby. We brought all the winners back for a second round, and when one of us had one egg that was still able to roll with its yolk intact, he was the winner.
I’m not sure I could talk Gabe into a game of crash the eggs. But, I’ll bet that sometime Easter evening, despite my wife’s protests, grandson Evan and I will revive the old tradition.
Jeff Gilliland may be reached at 937-393-3456 ext. 209 or on Twitter @13gillilandj.