Now that Easter is upon us, I thought I would regale you with a particularly vivid memory I have of the holiday.
I was seven, and because church bored me to such an extent that I often found myself doodling rudimentary blueprints for a more aerodynamic Millenium Falcon, I was sent to the basement where, huddled around a small table with other easily-distracted children, I was to keep quiet so we could all hear the minister's sermon through the wall-mounted speaker near the tiny window that let in a meager shaft of natural light. There was a selection of used (and often chewed on) plastic toys and some coloring pages, and as long as we made no fuss Mrs. Lancaster would let us be. Even at my young age, I recognized a good deal when I saw one, so, not wanting to be sent back to my parents in the sanctuary, I would occasionally look to the speaker in an effort to prove my piety to the venerable Mrs. Lancaster.
Everything was going well until Darrell, a particularly loud and active kindergartener, dragged a chair over to the window and scaled it. Now, lest you think Mrs. Lancaster failed in her duties, let me assure you that she acted as quickly as any seventy-four year old woman with a bad hip could possibly be expected to. As our eyes turned to take in the sight of the precariously perched five year old, she pushed back from the table, sending the tiny chair she had occupied tumbling across the room. She stood (rather wobbily, if memory serves) and scolded, "Darrell! You get down from there!" To which young Darrell responded, "I see him! I see the Easter Bunny!"
After that, who could remember what happened? I am sure we all leapt to our feet and either begged Darrell a chance to see for ourselves or, quite possibly, some of the more aggressive youths may have attempted to dethrone the bunny-spotter, but whatever our actions we saw hide nor hare of the mythical creature. "He's gone now," I do recall Darrell announcing.
The bunny may have been gone, but our imaginations were just starting to hop. The Easter Bunny! Right here, at Riverside Presbyterian Church! Imagine the odds! Possibly due to the idleness our brains usually experienced while in His holy place, our minds soon reached alarming levels of activity. Making up for years of Sunday dormancy, we theorized, postulated, and hypothesized. What else could the Easter Bunny be doing at church but hiding eggs? Yes! There would be an Easter egg hunt following the service and the cunning bunny had just now concealed the colorful ova among the thistles, nettles, and occasional patches of grass on the church's East side.
Up the stairs! We pushed past Mrs. Lancaster, ignoring her beseeching cries of "Stop!" and "Come back here!" as we thundered up the stairwell. The full power of the sun's rays through the stained-glass windows nearly blinded us, but we soldiered on. Past the hanging coats, past the table of nametags, through the double doors and into the glorious day at last!
We stopped and scanned the grounds, still hoping for one fleeting glance of the elusive bunny, but it was not to be. As one, we deferred to the leadership of Darrell, the youngest of our excitable band, for he was the One Who Had Seen. "This way," he said. And we followed.
The grass was still wet with lingering morning dew and our breath hung in the air. We searched the lawn for a sign--a fluff of rabbit fur, a paw print, perhaps a pink or purple dropping--and found nothing. For three long minutes we searched. Under rocks, in the hedge, near the place where Reverand Rollins had buried the time capsule two years ago. Nothing. Not a single egg.
Mrs. Lancaster's voice cut the early spring air. "Get back in here!" she said menacingly, and so we trudged back over the lawn, dejected. My eyes were downcast in disappointment and possibly in shame. How would I ever explain this to my parents? Surely, they would henceforth enslave me to their not-too-close-to-the-front pew to be tortured by torturously long-winded sermons and off-key doxologies. How could I have been so gullible?
But then, just as one Nike-clad tennis shoe left a wet impression on the cracked concrete, a flash of color in the corner of my vision. The others were already disappearing through the church doors. Mrs. Lancaster waited, one hand planted firmly on her bad hip. I bent my head to get a better angle. Could it be? Over there, partially obscured by a unraked leaf at the corner of the church? I dashed for it. Mrs. Lancaster surely rebuked me, but if she did I didn't hear it. My focus was singular.
I reached the leaf and threw it off and there, gleaming and untarnished, sat a yellow egg, golden in the sun's rays. As I reached for it, I heard Mrs. Lancaster's now tremulous voice. "Have you found something?" she asked.
And I slid the leaf back over the egg. "No, Mrs. Lancaster. It was nothing."
The breath she expelled made a cloud in the air and I, without a glance back, walked past her into the church. Who was I to crush years of her disbelief?*
*The above is quite possibly a total fabrication.