My family had a special Easter tradition during my childhood. Like most families, my siblings and I woke up to a great hunt every Easter morning, but instead of hunting eggs, we were hunting for our baskets. We had the traditional, colorful baskets that were a good size, and they were always filled with candy—including the large chocolate rabbit. Each of our baskets were labeled, so we weren’t allowed to claim the first basket we found. You wouldn’t think such a basket would be easy to hide, but my dad was a pro at hiding things. My dad would hide our baskets in the fridge, in the trashcan under the trash bag, in our standing piano, behind the movies on our VHS shelf, and under our LaZboy recliners. He would limit our search to one or two rooms, usually the kitchen and the living room, and his hiding places would get ever more clever as we grew older.
I would never find my basket first. I would usually find one of my brothers’ or my sister’s basket, and very occasionally my reaction and big mouth would tip them off to its location. There was one year my dad hid my older brother’s basket on top of the ceiling fan. I was leaning back while my parents outlined the perameters of our hunt when I spotted it, and my young brain didn’t think to keep my discovery a secret. I loudly pointed it out, and, as punishment, I wasn’t allowed to search for my own basket until my other siblings found theirs.
One Easter’s eve, my mother was using rags to curl my hair as a special style for our church service the next morning, and I decided to be a smart aleck. I turned to my dad and asked, “So, where are you going to hide my basket?”
My dad met my eyes and said calmly, “Under your bed.”
I chuckled at the thought and went to bed with my usual Easter anticipation. The next morning, my siblings and I were given our normal clues to the locations of our basket. My elder siblings found their baskets first, then my younger brother found his. They all camped on the couch, tearing into their candy as they watched me continue to turn the living room upside down looking for my candy.
Whenever I asked my dad for a clue, he would grin and tell me, “I already told you where it was.”
Frustrated and close to tears, I began going back through the places I had already scoured. Still no basket. I felt like a failure, and my dad kept grinning while my sibling chowed down on their chocolate.
After begging my dad for clues again, my mom broke down and asked me, “Where did he tell you he was going to hide it?”
I sat and thought, playing with the “boing-boing” curls in my hair. Then the light switch clicked “on” and I ran upstairs to my room. There was my basket, candy and all, tucked under my bed just as my dad had said. I carried it down, more than a little miffed as my family started laughing. “I didn’t think you were serious!” I complained.
My dad pulled a similar stunt a few years later. I was entering my teenager years and was very into nail polish. I had a small box purse that I kept my polish collection in, and I had left it in the living room overnight. This year, my siblings and I came into the living room to a disappointing sight: our baskets were sitting in the middle of the floor! A blanket was covering them, but we could all tell it was our baskets underneath. We slumped into the couch as our parents began their Easter speech, and then my dad sprung a surprise on us. He lifted the blanket, and we could all see that our baskets were empty! My dad told us that he had stuck our candy in baggies, and had hidden those baggies around the living room. The baggy condensed the candy, making it smaller and easier to hide. It increased the challenge, but we were all excited that we still had a hunt ahead of us. As had happened before, all of my siblings found their baskets before I did.
Again, I got frustrated, and again, I begged my dad for clues. All he would tell me was that I “already had it.” That clue irritated me. I couldn’t figure out what it meant! I had checked under my bed and in other places in my room, but my candy wasn’t there. I searched all around the living room, ignoring my box of polish, because I “knew” what was in that. After my dad repeated his clue—with that annoying, knowing grin—I figured it out and picked up my box, clicking it open. There was my candy, all my chocolate and gummies ready for me to eat. I gave my dad a look and ate my candy happily.
We grew older, and the objects of our search grew smaller. From baskets, to bags of candy, and to just our chocolate bunnies. Honestly, I don’t think any of my siblings cared about the candy. We loved the hunt! Our dad was so good at hiding stuff, that we felt genuine pride whenever we managed to uncover our prize. Even in our late teens, we insisted that my dad keep up his old tricks and keep hiding stuff on Easter. We were all in college—my oldest brother was even married—by the time my dad decreed that we were all too old to keep up the old tradition.
The final year of this tradition, my dad hid eggs filled with money. Even though it was the most recent hunt, I don’t remember much about it. I don’t remember how many eggs we were allowed to find, or who found the egg with the most money, but my dad was just as creative with his hiding places as ever. I remember finding an egg buried under the tissues of a tissue box, and I know there were others hidden inside various objects around the room. The biggest thing I remember about that year was knowing it was our last.
As second youngest, I felt it unfair that I didn’t get as many hunts as my older siblings, but I knew that it was time to end the tradition for my generation. It’s been several years since my dad has staged a hunt in our home, but now I have a nephew. He’s only a few months old, so this is not the year to stage a big return, but as the first grandchild in my family, I hope he heralds a new age of my dad’s epic hunts. I am looking forward to seeing how the next generation fares in this annual game of hide-and-seek.