Easter On the Road
As a child I often wondered how Santa Claus would find me. There was a pretty good chance that we would not be living in a house at Christmastime. Odds were we could very well be driving down some blue highway in a beat up old station wagon and sleeping in roadside parks or empty parking lots. It worried me, but, somehow mama and Belvin (my stepdad) found a way. It didn't take much to please a little boy. A note saying that he loved me and that he hoped I would have fun playing with the Jack in the box (or whatever small toy had magically appeared under the picnic table) and to be sure to give my mother and stepfather a big hug and a kiss and to tell them and my older brothers that he loved them, too. It was always signed, "Love, Your Friend, Santa."
Well, by the same token, I worried about the Easter Bunny. How would he know that I, Duffy, was somewhere in North Carolina or Texas or some other far away place beside the highway, or sitting in the backseat drawing pictures of rabbits and Easter eggs? He knew last year and the year before that, but what about this year?
There were lots and lots of children. Thousands or, maybe, even millions! He was so busy. Not as busy as Santa, but, still, very busy and he did not send letters or notes.
As Easter drew near I would begin peppering my mother with questions. Are you sure he knows? Do you think he will remember this year? Which state are we in now? Has he ever been in this state before? Yes, but... what about... is he... does he.... will he...? I sure hope he... do you think...? And on and on and on... and on.
As I dozed off to sleep I could not hear what those hushed tones in the front seat were all about. At times that whispering reassured me. Other times it worried me a great deal and my sleep was fitful.
I awoke to the sound of my older brothers laughing and mama telling them to help Belvin gather wood for a fire so she could cook supper. I had forgotten, momentarily, about the Easter Bunny and colored eggs.
I was hungry and it was always fun eating at a picnic table. At this suppertime mama cooked hamburgers and fried potatoes. I loved this meal because it required catsup on the burgers AND the potatoes and I loved catsup. I didn't mind picking out the onions from the potatoes and putting them on Belvin's plate. I also didn't mind whether the burger was on a bun or Wonder Bread. Buns had too much crust anyway! Mama and Belvin drank coffee. Clyde and Jarry split a Coca-Cola and I had a cup of Kool-Aid.
It was dark by now and mama had fixed up a bed, of sorts, for me, under the picnic table. The older boys would share the back area of the station wagon. Mama slept in the backseat while Belvin scrunched into the front seat.
The next morning, very early, I was awakened by the sound of the car doors opening and closing. Once again the cookfire detail began and mama got the things out of the Coleman cooler and we had my favorite breakfast... pancakes! Mama was an expert pancake maker!
After breakfast, as mama was washing dishes in an aluminium dishpan and Clyde and Jarry were helping Belvin pack the car, I shoveled the last bite of my pancake into my mouth and, as I drank my last drink of milk, I remembered, with both excitement and trepidation... Easter... the Easter Bunny... colored eggs... and an Easter basket.. oh... what if...?
I looked at mama and said... "Mama...?"
"Yes, Duffy...", she said, as she reached for my empty cup. Then, as I continued looking her way, she looked passed me, moved her head slightly to the left and said, "What is that... Duffy... what in the world, Duffy... look... over there... beside that bush... what IS that?"
I looked... and looked... then.... I saw it. It was light purple and yellow and... just the size of... an egg! I fairly pounced from the wooden table, almost falling down, and squatted by the bush. I reached and picked up the beautiful egg.
"Mama! Pop! Clyde! Jarry! Look here! Look at this!"
Pop took the empty dishpan from mama and stood looking over towards the small fence which was about twenty feet away.
He pointed, saying, "Duffy... look ... over there... by the fence. What is that... what in the world...?"
The bunny had found me just as in Easters before. Mama handed me an empty, cardboard, IGA egg carton and suggested I should keep looking very carefully as there just might be some more of those colored eggs.
With Belvin's help, I found precisely one dozen, twelve, Easter eggs and I was careful not to crack a single one of them. I would share them, later, with my family.
That morning as I opened the backdoor of the station wagon I saw, on the floorboard, a not too big straw basket. It was almost full with green grass, real green grass, only slightly wilted, but still nice and green. I still remember how it smelled. Under that grass, there was... you guessed it... jelly beans and a paper wrapped hollow chocolate bunny.
That morning, as we hit the highway again, I said, "Mama... you were right. He did remember!"
"Of course", said mama.
"Better get some gas", said Belvin.