We moved from Virginia (where I was born) when I was three, so I don’t have as many memories from there as I do from Tennessee, but I do have several. As you might expect, some of them are rather fragmented or small scraps floating through my mind without context. A few however are vivid.
One such memory is of Easter eggs. I do not know exactly how old I was (it had to be three or younger obviously), but I still recall the smell of boiling dye. Mom always used real egg shells. Just the shells. She poked tiny holes in each end and blew the yolk and white out. I got mad because I wasn’t allowed to dip the shells completely by myself. My mom usually held my hand in hers and lowered the shell, cradled in a wire dipper, into the dye bath. I was amazed at how the snow white shells came out infused with another hue. I learned that you could dip it more times to darken the color and that you had to let them cool and dry so the color didn’t run.
After they had cooled and dried, one thing I liked to do was simply wonder at the reds, blues, purples, and greens all nestled against one another in a bowl or basket. I wouldn’t stop fidgeting with them and got a reprimand for breaking one.
I wasn’t as keen on hiding or looking for them, however. My brother was older and more adept at hiding the eggs and provoked great irritation when I couldn’t find those last few. He did walk around with me and offer hints, but I was too young to catch them and got overly frustrated.
After looking for the eggs a couple of times, he finally let me hide them instead (or maybe Mom made him, I really have no idea). We must have had at least a couple dozen of eggs because I struggled with the basket as I looked for good hiding places. I discovered that hiding eggs was even tougher than looking for them.
I quickly tired of hiding the eggs even though the basket was still mostly full. Partially due to my inexperience (but mostly due to my inherent laziness and impatience) I came up with a brilliant plan for what to do with them.
I hid a couple more in the bushes around the house, then turned the corner and went behind the house. We hadn’t gone around before, so it seemed the perfect plan. I piled the remaining eggs in one spot right in the middle of the concrete walk. I have no idea what my thought process was, but perhaps it was that no one would expect me to put them all right in plain sight, but around the corner out of sight. Foolproof!
I don’t know if it was that I was impatient, or simply too young to really understand how hiding eggs works, but I followed behind my brother and pointed out each egg’s hiding place. When he finished looking for all the eggs beside the house (he never went around the corner), he got confused. The basket was barely full, but no more eggs seemed nearby. My plan worked! Okay, so it probably wasn’t really a plan, but this is my memory, so I’m going to come out looking good.
“Where’s the rest?” he asked.
“I hided them.”
“You hid them,” he corrected, “Where?”
I laughed and said, “Won’t tell!” Clearly I lied because I then said, “They’re right back here. Look.”
We walked around the corner behind the house to where I piled the rest of the eggs. Sure enough, the eggs were right where I left them. Had I paid more attention, or been older, I might have noticed how sharply the colored eggs stood out against the sunlight concrete. Had I been more observant, I might have noticed if they were not quite as I left them or that one may have cracked. It’s possible I didn’t notice any of that for the reasons I just mentioned, but there was definitely another reason. A reason I remember clearly. A very good reason.
A giant snake encircled the pile of eggs (to be fair, the snake probably was not a giant per se, but I was much smaller then and hissing, limbless reptiles were positively huge). It raised its scaly head and eyed us suspiciously. It drew its body tighter around the eggs and flicked its tongue at us.
We stood perfectly still for all of a split second. Then we did the most sensible thing possible for two small boys confronted by a hideous serpent. We ran and screamed for Mom.
Of course, when we finally got her to come with us, the snake was gone. Presumably because it had no interest in empty egg shells, but more likely because it was evilly watching from nearby, taunting from a distance us with its absence.
“Well, it’s certainly gone now,” my mom said to our repeated claims of vile, wretched snakes seeking to harm us with large fangs dripping with poison (yes, I tended to get hyperbolic even then).
She looked at us the way I try not to look at my children when they tell an outlandish tale. We gave up trying to convince her and started to gather up the eggs. We glanced around us the whole time just in case the snake came back.
“You know what they say about putting all your eggs in one basket,” said my mom. If I had been older, I would have pointed out they weren’t in a basket at the time.
I still like hiding eggs, and I’ve gotten much better at it (just ask my daughter who asks me to hide them “really, really good” but then complains when I do). Still, I never put more than two right next to each other and I make sure there is plenty of space between hiding spots. You can;t be too careful. There are snakes out there, you know.
I might start with all my eggs in one basket, but I never hide them that way.