The Last Easter Egg Hunt

Although I've lived on the same street for most of my life, I didn't TRULY get to know my neighbors until after our son was born.  That's not to say I didn't know them or wave or say hi, but things changed once there was a child in the house. I know that I became a more "active" neighbor and I'd like to think that I became a better neighbor.

My favorite neighbor activity was the block Easter egg hunt.  I don't know when it "officially" started, but for me it started the spring after my son was born, which would put us in April 2006 (the exact date being the 16th, which is also when Easter falls this year).  My son was not yet a year old when the hunt was held on the Saturday before the holiday in a neighbor's backyard.  Unlike most of the kids he wasn't running around finding plastic eggs full of candy.  But he was given some eggs to play with and he really liked them.  I don't remember who gave them to him, but I suspect it was our neighbor Mary.

Mary was the block mom.  Of course this wasn't something I knew or experienced until our son was born.  And while every holiday was special with Mary (boxes of cookies at Christmas, pool gatherings for Memorial Day and 4th of July, etc.), it was Easter (and the egg hunts) that always stood out and said "Mary" to me.  Under her watch the hunts evolved from one backyard to multiple front yard on both sides of the street.

Time has blurred one year from the next, but I carry memories of a cold Saturday morning (must have been a March Easter) with kids in winter coats and my son discovering his first cream filled donut. (Life has never been the same for him.)  Or the year that she organized it on a Friday evening and everyone (and then some) ended up in her yard for pizza.  In my mind's eye I see her lining up all the kids at the end of the block, not letting anyone get a jump start.  She tried (but didn't always succeed) to have the littler kids go first or go in one specific area, while the bigger kids had a different section. (The adults could get very creative when it came to hiding eggs for the older ones.) She wanted everyone to be able to get a basket full of fun.

This is not to say that she was solely in charge of the hunt.  We all organized and donated and worked hard.  (Keeping the kids inside and out of sight while adults from up and down the block scattered eggs was a sight to see!  I think one of our neighborhood dads had more fun hiding them than the kids did finding them.  Maybe it was because he was, and still is, a big kid at heart. )  But to me the heart and soul of it was Mary.  She was all about the kids and as block mom she made each and every one feel special.

As the years passed it was harder and harder to get everyone together.  There were more kids and the little ones were quickly becoming the bigger ones; with new little ones taking their place.  There were more activities going on:  ball games, practices, the endless social obligations that families face.

One year it was clear that it was just not going to work.  But that didn't stop Mary.  She came to our door the afternoon of Palm Sunday and invited my son over to another neighbor's yard. This neighbor’s little girl was about 3 years younger than my son, but adored him. (And still does; much to my pre-teen's dismay.) There were only the two of them, so Mary had bought an Easter piñata, a giant egg that the two of them could whack at.  It was a pretty sturdy piñata too as they took turns and nothing much happened.  Mary's daughter and the neighbor's older daughter (both of whom were "too old" to participate in such games, but had a heck of a good time) swung.  I can't remember who finally got the hit that put the hole in it, but eventually candy fell out.  All four kids rushed to fill their bags (which of course Mary had provided) with candy.  It was a sugar filled afternoon of bliss.

There was one more Easter Egg Hunt after that.  Mary had been sick and getting everyone on the block together was next to impossible.  But I think everyone knew how important it was.  There was NO way I was going to miss it.  So on Easter morning, a few parents went out again and littered the front lawns with those plastic eggs full of candy. (Have you ever noticed how stubborn some plastic eggs can be?  They just don't want to stay together and candy is forever falling out before they are even found!)  And around 9 in the morning, as many block kids as possible gathered by Mary's house and the hunt was on.

It wasn't long.  I know I had to get my son to choir rehearsal at church.   My son was in his suit.  I didn't want him to get too dirty or sweaty.  But this was more important than that.  This this was the most important Easter egg hunt ever.

It was the last Easter egg hunt.  It was Mary's last Easter.  There were a few more hunts.  I know I tried to put a few together; it only gave me a greater appreciation of Mary's love and dedication.  And as hard as I tried, it just wasn't the same.  The spirit and the love behind the hunt WAS Mary.

Easter will soon be upon us.  There will be Easter eggs and candy.  There will be music and praise. There will be tulips and lilies.  More importantly there will be memories of Mary. Especially at  Easter, I will be thinking of her and all that she did.  I will always be grateful for her friendship, her kindness and her compassion.  And I want to say to all of you (whoever you are), that the world was and IS a better place because of Mary. I hope each and every one of you is blessed with your own Mary.  Cherish her (or him).  Learn from her (or him).  Most importantly, carry her (or his) spirit and love with you.  But don't keep it to yourself; spread and share it.  That's what Mary would do.


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