When I was of Easter-basket toting age, the bunny brought us these fabulous, intricately decorated eggs that my sisters and I spent the morning admiring and comparing and hiding and hunting and hiding again, until they were cracked and slightly dirty. And then we peeled and sprinkled salt on them and stuffed ourselves, finally surrendering the remainder to Mother, who insisted she needed some for potato salad to go with the Easter ham and asparagus.
I liked the real eggs even better than the chocolate ones, even better than the big chocolate bunny that was also an invariable part and centerpiece of our Easter-basket bounty.
Expertly dyed and adorned with shiny decals of cute bunnies and chicks and ducks and flowers and with our names emblazoned on them in white, these wonderful trophies surprised me every year after I outgrew the myth of The Easter Bunny and realized that my mother had done them. When she supplied eggs for the school and church “hunts” during the days leading up to Easter, her efforts were amateurish, not nearly as fancy and artistic as the ones left in our baskets early on Sunday morning.
Since I am the oldest sister in our family, I got these annual treats for at least 10 years or more, a kind of reward for keeping the bunny’s real identity secret until the youngest of us outgrew him, too.
I got to thinking about keeping secrets the other day while in a group discussion during which one of those participating told this story: She had the care of her elderly mother, who became seriously ill. For a long time she coped, without much help from siblings, but there came a day when she was absolutely overwhelmed, and suffered an emotional “breakdown” in front of some friends.
She was advised to back off for a while, visit another old friend who lived out of town for a few days, and brothers and sisters were called in to relieve her, to bear the burden during this family emergency. But her mother soon died relatively unexpectedly, and after being told the news by a sister, the woman heard these words: “She missed you so much. She wanted me to call you to come home to her.” An unkind, unnecessary revelation that has hurt for many years.
I think that’s a secret the sister should have kept to herself.
Hearing this story made me think of something else, something I feel entitled to bring up because I’m now a septuagenarian who could need my family’s assistance in the not too distant future: What’s with the older folks who fail to recognize that there’s something unfair about their care network?
Instead of asking for Margie every day, can they not wonder aloud whether Ben or Sue or even Hillary might take them to the doctor or shopping? How about the grandchildren they’ve hauled to daycare and nursery school and sent to summer camps and perhaps college? Barring mental disability, we seniors need to become involved in our own care in the same way that we were once involved in the lives of our families. That’s not to be bossy or demanding, it’s simply to recognize that no matter how comfortable we may be under Margie’s care, things may need to be spread around.
Growing older and weaker and caring and coping had to be easier when folks like the Waltons were still on the farm. Easier — but harder too, in other ways.
Bettye Anding is a former editor of the Living section of The Times Picayune, for which she wrote “Silver Threads” until her retirement. Email comments to her at email@example.com.