As a child, the highlight of the Easter season for me was the Easter egg search. I understood that the holiday was a time of religious renewal, but the thrill of the hunt spurred me into a spiritual fervor in a way that hymns could not. My mother misunderstood my restlessness as a manifestation of spring fever after the seemingly unending dormancy of winter.
Easter Sunday arrived with a burst of sunshine after a week of overcast skies and the menacing threat of a torrential flood. My body hummed with anticipation as I jammed my arms into my jacket. I was eleven years old, and this was the last year that I would be considered a child in my church. There would not be another chance, no more Easter egg hunts after this.
The lines of the parking lot had long since been bleached into obscurity by the indomitable sun. Cracks spidered across the pavement, forming slender chasms which sprouted weeds and wildflowers. My Mary Janes slapped loudly against the concrete as I ran inside the church to seek out my comrades. Unfortunately, the youth minister was ill, so the children were forced to remain with the adults.
An eternity passed. The incomprehensible sermon buzzed around my ears like a swarm of mosquitos I longed to swat away. I balled my hands into fists and was about to shriek when Pastor abruptly drew the service to a close.
Pastor’s wife instructed all of the children to migrate into the parking lot for the hunt to begin. We received our baskets and instructions. As I listened with half an ear, I took careful notes of which eggs I could see already, and I planned my route accordingly. Nevertheless, a blurb of speech entered my consciousness.
“There are many eggs, but there is only one special prize. The Easter egg hunt begins now!”
I hesitated for a moment and sought for clues as to where the special prize might have been secreted away. A ring of brush and trees surrounded the parking lot; the willowy branches were already sprouting small green buds. Renewal. A small discoloration at the edge of my survey caught my eye. There was a tiny glimmer of gold in a brush pile on the perimeter of the parking lot.
I raced across the asphalt, the lacy layers of my pink dress frothed about my knees as I ran. I jumped heartily into the brush, twigs and vines snatching at my delicate stockings. I rooted through the debris like a pig searching for truffles, flinging dead leaves and dirt around without care. I could see it, the flash of gold beckoned like a siren’s song.
After a tussle with a particularly nasty handful of decaying vines, I was victorious! A shower of russet soil sprinkled my brow as I held the golden egg above my head. Each fleck of earth washed over me like a baptism of triumph. Pastor’s wife smiled indulgently at me while the other children stared jealously.
“The egg is only a placeholder. The real prize is waiting inside.” She told me as she brushed some of the dirt off of my face.
I walked into the church a champion, proudly displaying the egg which I refused to place in my basket with its more unrefined, plastic brethren. I followed Pastor’s wife into the half-lit children’s room which had been unused that day. She carefully handed me a large book, a collection of stories from the Bible. I cherished it for many years, remembering my victory fondly whenever I lifted its purple cover.