Easter has always been about new life, and about believing in things not easily seen. For my kids, it's also about chocolate.
The Easter my son Noah was four, he unwrapped his chocolate bunny and closed his eyes. Like a cigar aficionado, he smelled its length, deeply inhaling the heady scent of confection perfection.
"It's good," he volunteered after a few bites, "but I like the bunny with the hole in it, Mommy."
"The hollow one?" I inquired, making mental notes.
"Yeah. It tastes better," he explained.
Otherwise, everything else in his basket met with his satisfaction. The jelly beans rocked and the blue Peeps didn't disappoint.
Noah was also pleased that the Easter Bunny had left his and his baby sister Holly's baskets by the front door. Mine had always been hidden by the Easter Bunny, when I was a child, and every year, my husband and I debate the merits of hiding versus leaving them in plain view. He says it's sadistic to make the kids work for their baskets.
"But it was so much fun," I always argued, explaining how exhilarating it was to anticipate the discovery of my basket, hidden in a new place every year. Sometimes it was in the dishwasher or the oven, and sometimes that nervy bunny would sneak it under my bed as I slept. It was especially thrilling to discover a basket meant for one of my siblings and then tease them that I knew where it was. I credited the Easter Bunny with a sense of adventure and a creative imagination that always delighted us.
Last year I finally got my wish. The Easter Bunny hid the baskets.
"I don't think the Easter Bunny likes me," Holly said, a few days ago.
"Why?" I asked.
"Because he left my basket on the porch last year, where I couldn't find it," she replied. I suppose, after so many years, changing things up out of the blue wasn't the best game plan, after all.
Way to go, Easter Bunny.
Now what? Perhaps it's time to come clean and out the Easter Bunny. But what's worse? Letting my kid think the Easter Bunny's messing with her or setting her straight?
I learned the truth about the Easter Bunny one Easter Eve when I was about nine, when my visiting cousins, sister and I were supposed to be slumbering together in my loft bedroom. Unable to sleep, I abandoned my sleeping bag and tiptoed downstairs to my parents' bedroom, expecting to find comfort or a glass of water. Instead, I discovered an uncanny frenzy of overtired and giddy parents, aunts and uncles, clumsily assembling a potpourri of Easter baskets from an assortment of chocolate eggs, chocolate bunnies, fake green grass and jelly beans which were scattered across my parents' bed. This was back in the day when smoking was still all the rage, so the room sported a bluish haze that lent a surreal quality to my discovery. The adults were oblivious to my presence as I stood in the doorway in my flannel nightgown. I just backed out quietly, not making a sound, my mind reeling with questions.
I recall the impulse to run upstairs and wake everyone up so that I could spill the beans about what I'd seen. I was 'in the know,' after all, delighted at the prospect of being seen as wise and all-knowing before my sister and cousins.
But I never did.
I doubt I withheld my big news out of compassion for my younger relatives. I think I was just too stunned to speak about it and recall feeling lonely with my discovery. I'm not sure, but I'll bet this was the beginning of the end for me.
Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy probably retreated into that smoky haze, right along with the Easter Bunny.
But now that I'm a parent, I'm a believer all over again.
"See his footprints, Mommy?" Noah breathlessly intoned on that Easter morning when he was four. "I see two claws and big bunny prints," he added. I made my way over to the window to have a look.
Sidewalk, new spring grass, budding trees, and the early morning goings-on of the resident squirrels and birds clamoring for their breakfasts.
The usual, everything as it should be.
"Yes baby, I see them," I whispered.
Jennifer DuBose, M.S., C.A.S., is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in Batavia.
See more of Jennifer's stories here.