Saturday, March 19, 2016

Easter Fun

Since Easter is coming up, I’ve been thinking back on ones in the past. Making up baskets for the kids, big Easter dinners, church services, Easter outfits, all bring back memories of happy times. And then I thought of Easter egg hunts.

When Jim and I owned that mobile home park in Delaware in the late sixties, we inherited a tradition from the previous owners, the annual Easter egg hunt. Mr. and Mrs. Allison always hosted this festivity for the children in the park, and when we took over, we thought it a good idea to continue.

The first year Mrs. Allison, along with some mothers in the park, came to help, bringing extra pots and coffee cups for dyeing. I don’t know about your Easter egg hunts back then, but the ones I’m talking about were with real hard-boiled colored eggs and involved several dozen of them.
The park had sixty-five rental spaces and a couple times as many kids ranging in age from toddlers to teens. And they all participated in the hunt. Back then without cell phones and other electronic gadgets, fun consisted of simpler things.

We were up at dawn on the Saturday before Easter to start the boiling which took several pots since the eggs have to be in a single layer to avoid cracking. We needed to bring them to a rolling boil, and let them set for fifteen minutes for the perfect hard-boiled egg. I think we made something like twelve dozen eggs so you can imagine that this took awhile. The kitchen got steamed up and doors and windows were flung open even though outside was not that warm. Husbands cared for the little ones during this occasion so that it could be kept a secret, sort of. We, moms, took advantage of our time off and made it festive with appropriate refreshments and a certain silliness only friends working together enjoy. We were like kids, competing for the prettiest ones, wrapping eggs with string, marking them with crayon words, swirling in different colors, which we made ourselves from food color and vinegar. And there were two special glittered gold and silver eggs for first and second prizes of Easter baskets, but every participant got a chocolate bunny. We put all the eggs back in the cartons to dry and then into the fridge till show time. Then we made up the Easter baskets stuffing them first with that green grass that ends up everywhere.

The mobile home park was called Whispering Pines, and it did have a few huge pine trees interspersed among the lots, but the egg hunt was held at the front of the park in a large open area sort of like the inside of a U with the entrance and exit streets circling it. Mrs. Allison was a gardening whiz. Right now, just thinking about it, I can almost taste the tartness of her fresh strawberry-rhubarb pie made with the real thing fresh from her garden. She had planted azaleas, forsythia, daffodils, tulips, and dogwoods all around the perimeter of this central grassy area. It was beautiful in the springtime, and this is where the guys, carrying flashlights, hid the eggs early on Sunday morning under a pre-dawn cover.

At the designated time, I think it was around 9, parents lined up their kids side-by-side, empty baskets in hand, little ones in the front row. They got a head start, sometimes being helped by a parent or a teen sibling. The rest of us stood drinking coffee, watching the action with smiling faces. Some tiny ones got exasperated and had to be helped, directed and cheered on by the rest of us.

Enthusiasm kept the hunt to a minimum amount of time and almost all the eggs were found within a half hour with participants returning to proudly exhibit their colorful baskets. When the special eggs were found, shrieking marked the spot and the “findee”. Smiles stretched across the faces of the proud parents. We distributed the prizes which were usually shared and eaten on the spot. I’m not sure who had the best time, the kids or the adults.

We kept up the tradition for the five years we owned the park. It was a good way to get better acquainted and everyone seemed to enjoy it. Even now, almost fifty years later, my mind can see certain moms dipping those eggs with delight. We’re all kids at heart, aren’t we? Think I can talk my daughter and granddaughter into coloring some eggs when they come for Easter dinner this year? Then we can turn them into deviled eggs, always a request on this occasion.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

An Irish Thing

According to historical accounts, St. Patrick was born in England (in Roman times), not Ireland. He arrived in Ireland via kidnapping and was sold into slavery. Eventually, he escaped to a monastery in France (Gaul). He returned to Ireland in 432 A.D. as a missionary where he converted thousands to Christianity, driving out the Pagans, or "snakes" as they were called. There are no real snakes in Ireland, depending on your definition. He became a bishop and was named Ireland's Patron Saint.

Irish emigrants to the United States inflated St. Patty's Day celebrations as a way of connecting with their roots, green rivers, green beer, green clothes for the green isle. When I was in elementary school if I didn't wear green on St. Patty's Day, I could expect to be pinched. I wore green. We even exchanged St. Patrick's Day cards. It was a big deal...and I was English way back when sometime.

And then there is this luck thing that's associated with the green day. The three-leaf clover is a symbol of the trinity, but a four-leaf clover brings good luck. And kissing the Blarney Stone, that makes you lucky in love. Leprechauns, another Irish thing, were paid by fairies for their work with golden coins. Once I had a little leprechaun in my garden to protect my plants from danger. It didn't work. I think you need a green thumb for that and mine is mostly brown, but he was pretty. In time, the rain ate some of him away and he had to be discarded.

There's special food and drink on the green day, corned beef and cabbage and a good pint are the most popular. Here where I live we have several pubs (bars) that cater to the theme all this week, Dirty Nelly's, Mother's, Beef O'Brady's. If you have imposed food restrictions on yourself for Lent, the Irish give you permission to lift them for this one day, March 17th.

My husband was Irish, but he wasn't much for celebrations. Leprechauns interested him though. We'd all like to find that pot of gold, and rainbows are beautiful whether there is gold at the end or not

All things considered, the Irish have given us a lot of things to think about, things we wouldn't know of without them. I was lucky in love without the Blarney Stone, but if I happened to be nearby, I'd have to give it a try.