4 for Easter

by Jeff Oaks

When I was a little boy, my mother used to construct elaborate Easter baskets and hide them in the house, with a trail of jelly beans that she wove throughout the house to help me find it. I don’t know what she did with our cats and dogs who would have eaten the trails before I woke up, but they never seemed to. It was one of her favorite things to do, she told me. Even years later, when I was living far away, she mailed me chocolate treats for Easter. All that pure love catches me in the throat now. What better candy to be given than to know that you were so loved?

Of the Easter Bunny itself, I was afraid. A rabbit the size of a man was wrong. I’d had rodents by then as pets and knew their sharp teeth and claws. I wanted no part of a giant one. I didn’t understand the silliness of it, which is how adults, I think, think kids will see the Easter Bunny: a big, stupid but kind-hearted creature. But kids, who often suffer the same sentimentalisms, know differently. A giant rabbit would be weaponized at that size. Anything giant is to be feared, is at the very least a cause for great alarm. I was so glad the Easter Bunny never actually showed up in my house. I figured out early too He was really my mother, the first lie I recognized.

I have eaten rabbit. I ate a particularly good wild rabbit once, and was surprised by how tasty I thought it was, how it tasted like something that had enjoyed life and passed it on.

One of the earliest pictures is of me in a playpen with a lamb, which might have been an Easter lamb. It may not have been but in those days we weren’t given to much sentimentality about the ways an edible creature might be used. We ate and we ate and we ate, as I’ve written elsewhere. You had to be strong because the Depression might return. It was after all only thirty some years before that picture of me was taken. You had to make your children love to eat so they had a chance. It was old magic. My grandfather could fix anything you handed him; he disappeared into his little workshop filled with drawers and tools and vices and a small stove over in one corner, and violá, your watch was caught up in time again. My grandmother could make fantastic chocolate cakes out of pocket lint and old coffee grounds. The basement was full of jellies and preserves for the long winters. My father somehow made money out of sand and gravel, which made no sense to me at all. Maybe in that strange world I understood so little of, the lamb I briefly shared quarters with was in fact given a suit of clothing and twenty dollars and put on a bus. Who knows where he got off and how he started a new life? Who knows when we’ll meet again and tell each other our stories of how we survived?