Happy Easter. It’s a gorgeous spring day in New York. It is very bright and clear, a day for seeing. I just spoke to my 92-year-old father, with whom I practice remembering every Sunday morning. This Easter morning he asked me if I remembered jelly bean hunts when I was little. “I had to ask your brother and sister to share what they found with you. You could never find any of them—even when I put them into the phone dial, all those bright colors right in plain sight.” I vaguely remember standing there in a daze watching my brother and sister whipped around collecting jelly beans. What was I waiting for? Was I waiting for the heavens to open and shower me with jelly beans?”
That we had a phone with a dial dates me. Also this: on Easter I had to dress up, including wearing a hat and white gloves—little girls and grown women also wore white to gloves to church. I remember being lined up outside near daffodils with my brother and sister. I remember wearing a broad-brimmed Madeleine-style hat held in place by a very uncomfortable elastic strap, white gloves, clutching an Easter basket. I remember squinting into the sun with a look of consternation. What was I feeling—besides discomfort about the outfit and the prospect of hours spent going to church to hear a story that seemed very sad and strange? What was I trying to see that I was not seeing?
Maybe I was looking forward to the consolation of chocolate in the distance, after church. I liked chocolate so much that my mother started to prepare Easter basket that mixed in non-edible toys. One unforgettable year, I received a solid chocolate bunny with blue candy eyes as my sole candy object (along with a few humiliating jelly beans)—and, inexplicable to me, a big fancy container of lilac body powder. My twin brother was given a twin bunny and a toy machine gun–in honor of the Prince of Peace and his triumph over death. This was the Mad Men era, and I’m wondering now if my teenage sister got cigarettes in her Easter basket…no, that came later, when she was in college.
At any rate, I was so outraged at the blatant sexism of the powder versus the machine gun that I traded my chocolate rabbit for a magic kit a boy in the neighborhood received. It included a tiny black wand and a little egg cup and an egg that disappeared. I had always wanted to witness and practice magic. Yet the moment I made the trade, I knew I made a terrible mistake. I felt as if I had traded away something that was special in a way I had not appreciated for something shabby and obvious. I went back to the neighborhood boy and asked for my bunny back. He grudgingly agreed, telling me he had already eaten the ears off. I gave back the toy with its fake little magic. I carried that mutilated bunny home in a spirit of solemn sanctity. I had been in church and heard the wondrous story about the broken body and the empty tomb. I am positive I wasn’t making a conscious comparison. But I had the sense that I was choosing something that came from a spirit—a spirit of the generosity of gift giving, a spirit of commemorating rebirth—rather than settling for a cheap trick.
Looking back, I realize that as vague and dreamy as I was as a little kid, I had the sense that there was something to seek in this life that is cannot be sought or found by merely analytical means. I had the sense that there was something special about a gift and about generosity, and that wonders beyond magic are happening. Even if we can’t see them. Even in plain sight. Happy Easter.