Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Going to hell in an Easter basket

I miss kid-Easter. We were heathen children, growing up--not even part of the lily-and-poinsettia crowd of twice-yearly churchgoers--but we loved dyeing eggs. Nowadays you can marbleize them, or do Victorian decoupage, or have Martha come over and hand-gild a few when she gets her anklet off...but in the 70s, we just had the Paas tablets, dissolving too slowly in Grandma's most chipped and stained coffee cups. We loved the vinegary reek of it, and tolerated the flimsy bent copper wire that was supposed to serve as an egg-dipping tool but inevitably caused your egg to KONK to the bottom of the cup or slip free and roll off the table. Our post-Easter egg salads were always veined with purple and blue from assorted crunchy mishaps.

When I was ten, my dad claimed me and Sis for the Easter holiday and took us to his sister's, a one-time event that may be self-explanatory, shortly. Dad had remarried a few months before, to a young, pretty waitress almost exactly between he and I in age. She could drink legally, but not by more than a year or two. This was before terms like "blended family" were invented or kids were entitled to opinions: you were introduced to your new Step-Something and then you relinquished the shotgun seat and zipped it, thanks. So...metaphorical elbows were still being thrown as we all jockeyed for position and adjusted to one another.

My aunt had remarried, herself, so that for this holiday there were at least six kids present, half- and step- and regular cousins all jammed into the kitchen and tasked with coloring eggs to grace the dinner table. Maybe it's significant that I can't remember which of us had the idea, only that we all thought it was an excellent one. Someone took the translucent white crayon that came with the dye kit and inscribed one of the eggs:


We kept it out for last and dunked it haphazardly in every color. It came out sort of an olive-drab shade, not the brown we were hoping for but still highly unappealing, candidly declaring TURD in childish, high-contrast printing. TURD!

Each place setting at the table had a ruffled paper cupcake panty filled with cellophane Easter grass, a few jellybeans, and a festive dyed egg. By silent consensus, we set the TURD egg at my stepmom's place.

Twenty-five years later, Step and I have reached a cordial peace. This allows me to imagine, a little, what that moment must have felt like, gathered at the table with her considerable new extended family, the kids all snuffling and snorting with barely suppressed hilarity. Saying grace over a glistening ham, a cake molded in the shape of a lamb and iced with shredded coconut...and a grimy green ovoid next to her plate hollering TURD! Bless this mess, Christ is risen, a dozen pretty pastel eggs with stripes and bunny decals and you get TURD TURD TURD. You are TURD, child-bride stepmom. You are Other.

I'd like to see Julia Roberts make a movie out of that.

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