Monday, April 14, 2014

The Great Easter Egg Hunt Tour

It’s Easter season here, and many other places I would presume. That means the vast array of egg hunts and kiddie events is in full swing.

Saturday we set out to go on tour with our friends whose son Rowan is about 7 months older than Jay. Jay and Rowan are tight; they are growing up together as cohorts and friends, teachers and rivals to each other, as much brothers as they are friends.

Rowan and his parents can be a bit clock-challenged, and Saturday morning was no different. We wanted to leave the house by ten a.m. to get over to the town of Wells, Vermont, and find the hall of the Modern Woodsmen of America where the egg hunt was to take place. At 10:10 the father called and said they would drive separately.

Laura and Rowan’s mom, and the two boys apparently got to an egg hunt last year a few minutes too late. There was sadness, and apparently a fair bit of trauma- for Laura, anyway. We blasted to the mini-van, Laura had it rolling down the road almost before my feet left the ground to climb in. I felt like the wicked witch of the north country bobbing up and down in a tornado as we bounced down our frost-heaved and pot-holed road. We were NOT going to be late. There would be NO sadness allowed today.

The van was nearly out of gas. Would we make it? The question came up several times. I don’t know. I still don't know. Ummmm, same question, same answer. Probably, but running out of gas in our neck of the woods would be the surest way to sadness on multiple levels. We stopped, with Laura scratching through her wallet for her credit card while simultaneously negotiating the cars already parked, some of the backwards, at the pumps. We veered around a sedan (even Jay interrupted- "what are we doing????"), and backed into the lone open pump. A swipe and a quick fiver in the tank, and we were back on the streets of Granville.

We indeed made it to the site on time. The town of Wells is a crossroad, so we figured correctly that it wouldn’t be too hard to find the “MWA” hall. It was the one right before town that was surrounded by preschoolers with baskets and itchy feet.

Jay and I got dumped next to the taped-off field of eggs. Laura parked the van. We made it; it would be a sad-free morning, anyway. Jay watched in annoyance as a little girl ran out several times and stole eggs early, including a football-colored egg right in front of him. Bless his heart. I think when I was his age my basket would have “slipped”.

Finally the countdown happened, and a hundred pairs of legs waddled and tripped and tumbled onto the battle field. There was no “hunt”, other than in a predatory sense. Jay didn’t quite get it; he was happy running around with a bunch of other kids. In the end, he got five eggs and ran past 20 or 30.

It was fine; he was happy for what he had and I was content to help him with a couple of Hershey kisses.
The plastic eggs mostly had the chocolate, with a couple of balloons thrown in as token choking hazards. Right at the end of the frenzy, Rowan trotted up with one egg in his canvas Easter egg bag. I suggested to Jay that he share one or two of his with Rowan, but he suffered an attack of temporary deafness that so often afflicts him in such situations. It was fine; he doesn’t have to share. Pushing the issue tends to engender resentment toward the whole notion of sharing.

After the hunt we went next door to the school playground. I was happy to see a few vestigial playground parts: a metal-pipe monkey bar structure, and an old-school metal swing set. Sadly, the entire area was padded with mulch and wood chips, which only serve to teach children that they can fall without consequence.

But, I digress…

The most entertaining thing about the trip next door was the overwhelming number of chocolate- smeared faces. Chocolate faces swinging, chocolate faces climbing, sliding, chocolate faces teetering and tottering. I doubt there were many, if any, unconsumed chocolate kisses remaining from the recent frenzy.

After a good 30-45 minutes of this, Rowan’s dad wanted to head for home, while the rest of us considered other plans. There was a hunt in Cambridge, New York, an hour’s drive in the opposite direction. We had two car seats in the van (we had planned originally to all travel in one vehicle), so Stephen went home in their car. Rowan, Jay, Laura, Kate (Rowan’s mom), and I piled into the van. We stopped and filled up the gas tank, and for the next almost-hour, shoved food and drink into the boys’ mouths as we moved toward the next battleground.

We made good time (remember, the sad-free ethos was still fully in play), and pulled into the Round House Café and bakery. Author Jon Katz and a table full of friends and students of his, including writer Lisa Dingle and photography legend George Forss were there, as well as Jon’s wife, Maria Wulf.  We ordered a large pile of food, gluten-free and otherwise, and continued to feed the kids and ourselves. Live music filled the air. While the Round House feeding frenzy carried on, I wandered down the street to find out where the Easter egg hunt was taking place.

As I had figured, the awesome staff at Battenkill Books had the scoop. A few blocks down, turn left at Price Chopper, and you won’t miss it.

Upon my return to the Round House, my nose was assaulted by my son’s “essence.” Something about that place brings out the “best” in him; we’ve never been there without needing to change a nasty nappy before leaving. Must be the high-fiber uber-healthy menu. Jay knew the drill. Walk back to the bathroom. Knock on the door (he did this on his own, and leaned his ear to the door to listen for an answer). Enter; push the potted plants aside on the two-foot-by-two-foot cocktail table. Lay out a pad. Recline on the table just so, at about a 22 degree angle so his feet don’t fully dangle off the edge. Reach over and pick off the fake bird and flower from the planter (there aren’t any books to read in there), and wait for Dad to finish the job. Replace the fake bird and flower, hop down, everyone washes hands, dry dry dry, paper towels into the trash. Wait for Daddy. Open the door, high-five the next person you see. Why? Few things are as under-rated as a good BM, except maybe a clean diaper. And he just had both.

After a high-five to Jon and a wave to his/ our friends, we re-loaded into the van. Again we arrived with but a few minutes to spare. Again Laura pulled into a parking lot filled with children. Again I think she wished for hydraulics so she could tilt the van and shake us out of it more quickly. Kate and I positioned the boys strategically at the corner of the egg-hunt yard, and discussed strategy. “Look, Jay. You can just go right down this line and score a bunch of eggs!”


Laura arrived after parking the van. Soon the boys were in another “hunt”, another grab for plastic eggs filled with goodies. Jay plowed down his row like a farmer trying to beat the rain. He filled his basket to the brim. Rowan far out-gathered his own earlier number. As with the Wells hunt, within about two minutes the lawn was picked clean. Children and adults huddled to check out the booty. I was more fascinated than anything else; the few items that weren’t certified choking hazards (hard candy, pencil erasers, balloons) were full-on strangulation hazards (long necklaces strung with choking hazards- beads, spangly sparkly things, assorted tinsel). There was almost nothing he could have.

So, we loaded his neck with three or four necklaces. Safety in numbers, right? On the upside, when we returned the plastic eggs, we were given a bag full of goodies that included some jelly beans. Yeah, they’re also a technically a choking hazard, but at least he got something he could chew on.

And, of course, there was the Easter Bunny. The crafty hare managed to be in Wells in the morning, and time-warp to Cambridge in the afternoon. In both cases, Jay refused an offer to meet the bearer of chocolate and jelly beans; he saw the creature as I did (love it when he does that)-

A bizarre white lab rodent the size of his mother.

No thanks, Daddy.

I don’t blame you, son.

We ended the day, indeed, sad-free. Free of sadness. There was candy, there were eggs, there was a freakish white rabbit photo-bombing. We rounded out the day with a stop at Jon and Maria's Bedlam Farm to pet dogs and donkeys. Jon graced us with a sheep-herding demo with his wonderful dog Red, and his lab Lenore arrived on cue to knock down the giggling toddlers with love and kisses.

 Sunday held the promise of another hunt in Salem, New York, but rain ended that plan. There is one at a church in Hebron, New York next Saturday, and a private affair at a farm in West Pawlet, Vermont on Easter Sunday. The boys are veterans now. They’ve felt the mud and smelled the chocolate. They have donned the shiny things.

So long as the grown-ups can get out of the house on time, and the carriage stays upright en route, we have a good chance of next weekend being another success. Hopefully, whatever they find on their hunts will be a bonus. I think the real fun, the best way to stay sad-free, is to just enjoy running through the grass with a bunch of other kids.

Sounds pretty good to me.

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