Laying out the Easter eggs took longer than the race to collect them.
Looking from the scant field of eggs to the throngs waiting to collect them, I noted to one of the organizers, “You don’t have enough eggs.”
The organizers had divided up the Easter Egg Hunt field into two groups: toddlers and school-age. Despite their earnest efforts, school-age children still managed to flout the rules and line up for the enticing race to the playground, where the organizers had artfully placed some of the plastic-coated treasures for the toddler set.
A day or two before, I’d been hobbled by a muscle sprain after photographing a softball game. Now, two days later, I was using my monopod as a cane to get around the Easter Egg field. I knew I wouldn’t be able to out-race children fifty years younger than myself.
So I positioned myself near the playground for a choice shot of eggs placed on the equipment. The mayor gave the countdown and the race was on. Older children swarmed the field, including the toddler section, like a plague of locusts. In a 30-second sweep, the field of eggs was cleared.
I’d gotten about two shots, only one of which was usable. Fortunately, I’d gotten plenty of photos of the Easter Bunny riding into the area and the mayor giving the countdown. As I was shooting, I had noticed a girl of about two bending to pick up her egg. A boy raced up from behind her and scooped the egg up, glancing at her for a second before running off.
After a second, she let out a heartbreaking wail. Her mother had heeded the organizers to not interfere with the children’s quest. She ran up now and cuddled the sobbing child in her arms. I abandoned my futile quest for more egg-hunt photos and went over to the mother and child. The mother and I watched together as the last wave swept over the playground.
I’d gotten exactly one “egg”. This poor little tyke got nothing. After the wave passed on, with the little girl still crying broken-heartedly (her mother said she never cries like that), I observed several other egg-less tykes of about two or three. One little fellow stood frozen, looking only with his eyes in bewilderment. Peering into his basket, I saw that he had not gotten an egg, either.
I searched around for any stray eggs, but the field had been thoroughly swept. So I stumped my way over to the “winners’” line, where those lucky enough to get an egg could claim a prize. I asked one of the organizers whether they had any extra eggs.
“No,” he said.
“Are you sure?” I asked. “Because there’s this little two year-old crying her heart out over there because she didn’t get egg. Do you think you could have a heart and give her something?”
“Here!” he groused. “Here’s a take-away. You can give her that!”
Trying to find the little girl and her mother again took some time. In the meantime, I came across the head organizer.
“I think it’s very important to hold events like this,” he said. “The way our culture is going, there’ll be nothing for them to remember. Our group wanted to give them some good Easter memories.”
He meant well, so I made no retort. Easter Egg Hunts have been the despair of toddlers for as long as I can remember. Parents of toddlers are requested not to accompany their children. But in the parents’ defense, you can hardly blame them if they don’t want to let their tiny tots be trampled by the thundering herd in quest of a pagan symbol, presided over by another (harmless) pagan symbol.
If I had a two year-old, I wouldn’t want to send her out into the midst of a mob like that.
The assistant had given me a brightly-painted egg in a cup. As I hobbled around looking for my little friend and her mother, I received some strange looks and hidden smirks. Never mind, I thought. I just want to find this kid and go home.
I was worried that they’d already gone home. But they were still by the playground set. The mother ran over to thank me. Some kind soul had given the child an extra Easter Egg, which mollified her. I then presented her with the take-away gift, which I told her was from the Easter Bunny on special account of her being robbed of her own egg.
A sunshine of a smile broke all over her face as she took her prize and she climbed up onto the slide with it to show her companions. My leg then reminded me that it was time to go. The mother and I wished one another a Happy Easter. My last glimpse of the little girl was atop the slide against a spring-blue sky, her face just a picture of peace and happiness.
‘Take a picture of her!’ the photographer in me cried.
‘No,’ I replied (to myself, naturally). This wasn’t about taking a picture (for which I’d be paid). This was about the real meaning of Easter, the joy you’re supposed to feel, not despair, at the gift Christ gave us.
In Orange, Conn., another Easter Egg Hunt sponsored by the Pez candy company, also went wrong when 900 children (and parents) mobbed a field. At least one toddler was injured.
Community organizers (the real deal, not the Leftists) are at a loss as to what to do. One town I cover eliminated the race entirely. The Easter Egg Hunt was reduced to an indoor event for toddlers only, with a picket-fenced area where the tykes could hunt for plastic eggs on plastic grass. It was the only way to protect them.
My father took me to our town Easter Egg Hunt when I was about eight. Not a very fast or athletic child, I was beaten out for my egg. I cried but my father ordered me to stop. He said that was the way the real world was. I was too old to be crying over such things, anyway.
When I was smaller, my father wanted to take us, but my mother said no way. She wasn’t going to have me, her little “totsie-two,” trampled by the hoodlums and galunks, the bigger kids bowling over the little ones for the prize.
Instead, she arranged a private Easter Egg Hunt in our own backyard. My mother had created a rock garden which, in addition to the general nature of our fairly woody backyard, provided many interesting places in which to hide Easter Eggs.
I was able to “hunt” at my leisure, without any pressure or danger of being trampled. Hunting for the eggs was a pure delight. I found them behind rocks, wedged into the boles of trees, and hidden amongst daffodils and other early flowers, while the spring birds sang overhead.
But what are well-meaning community organizers to do? Many towns report widespread cheating on the part of the participants, both children and adults. They can’t very well call in security guards or law enforcement to “police” an Easter Egg Hunt. The fact that they would have to doesn’t speak well for the public’s attitude about these hunts, which are more precisely races than hunts.
Despite their best efforts, the towns can’t separate the groups of children, at least not without parental intercession. Even staging the groups at different times hasn’t worked. In this town, the parents of older children were ordered off. In another town, they were able to make use of fenced-off soccer fields to separate the groups. They also subdivided the groups even more discretely than usual.
Since such policing is beyond the scope of the organizers and the supposed nature of the Easter Egg Hunt, the towns could simply eliminate the toddler group hunt altogether. Or fence off a smaller area away from the larger hunt, so that the toddlers can pick up their eggs in peace.
Parents of toddlers might also avail themselves of my mother’s wisdom and stage their own backyard Easter Egg Hunts. If they still insist on bringing their little ones to these public hunts, they might also consider BYOE – Bring Your Own Eggs. Let the tide of goobersmoochers pass by and when the field is reasonably quiet and the older ones are on line, clamoring for their prizes, lay out a few eggs for your little ones to pick up.
Since my hip and I are not getting any younger (or better), I will have to introduce this innovation myself in the future in order to get pictures of my target group – the tiny tots, for whom this magic was invented in the first place.
Sobbing two year-olds do not make for good photos or happy Easter memories.