Long after I gave up on Santa Claus, I believed in the Easter Bunny because of bunny trails.
For my mom, the world was filled with magic at the holidays. It was as if she sprinkled everything with magic fairy dust. Thanksgiving was full of family and food, Memorial Day was of patriotism and remembrance. Despite her distaste for the loud booms of the 4th of July, she shared her thrill of Battle Hymn of the Republic and other patriotic music that stirs the soul, and she loved the shimmer of the fireworks while she held her ears.
At Christmas, everything sparkled. The “perfect” tree was decorated with evenly distributed ornaments, lights, and tinsel, and filled the house with the fresh, herbal fragrance that only a real tree can diffuse. The stockings she knit with the names of her children hung on the fireplace mantle. Cinnamon buns were dusted in green sugar and dappled with cinnamon dots, and baked in the shape of a Christmas tree for breakfast. Norman Rockwell dinner was in the dining room, complete with the turkey, special occasion china and silverware, candles and flowers on the table. A family of 5 surviving on a public school teacher’s salary, she got creative with gifts, from little presents hidden among the tree branches, left there by Santa himself, to the perfectly decorated boxes under the tree.
But, Easter held an even more magical meaning for Mom.
Easter wasn’t just a Christian holiday for Mom. It was a celebration for the end of long winter nights and the beginning of spring. The sun was warmer and shined more brightly, but she glowed from within upon discovering the blanket of little purple and white crocuses that popped up in our yard. I’m pretty sure she believed the robins announced their return to her personally. It was only a matter of time before her spirit animal butterflies would start to appear.
There was also a lot of church. Mom and Dad sang in the choir, so I was in church on Maundy Thursday, learning about Jesus’ Last Supper with his dear disciples. I was back on Good Friday, glued to the minister’s words in the retelling of the tragic moments of Jesus dying. We would be back on Sunday in our Easter best, but not before a morning of bunny trails.
The baby of the family, my eyes flicked open long before everyone else. I couldn’t wait to find the little pieces of paper, cut into the oblong shape of a rabbit’s foot that formed a trail. Sometimes, they started at the edge of my bed; sometimes they were even on my bed, right next to my face. The Easter Bunny had come!
The bunny trail took me all over the house in search of the Easter eggs we had decorated together, that the Easter Bunny had hidden. Under the bed, inside lamps, between sofa cushions, resting at the base of plants. Finding eggs was almost as exciting as the reward – my Easter basket. It was filled with my mother’s favorite candies – black and spice jelly beans, malted-milk balls, chocolate shaped like eggs and bunnies, marshmallow Peeps, and too-sweet, messy Cadbury Creme Eggs. How did the Easter Bunny know how much my mom loved black licorice jelly beans?! What a wonder.
Even if we traveled, the bunny trails found us – clever, that Easter Bunny.
I fretted to my mother: How is he going to find us in the woods at Aunt Mary and Uncle Warren’s house? Sure enough, in the wee hours of the morning, I heard him hopping around in the living room of their house. Not wanting to make him disappear, instead of investigating, I forced myself back to sleep. A couple of hours later, lo and behold, the trail, the eggs and my basket were all there, and Easter could continue.
Even in a motel near Washington, D.C. the year Dad decided we were attending the Sunrise Service at the Iwo Jima Memorial, the Easter Bunny found us! Bunny trails were all over my bed, the floor (ew), the furniture, and he hid my basket in the tub. The Easter Bunny was definitely real.
There was no heart-wrenching moment when I learned the truth. No older sibling stole my childhood wonder. I never discovered Mom laying the trail. The story simply faded as I got older and I started surprising her with Easter baskets filled with her favorite candies that had become mine too – except Creme Eggs. Yuck! No trails though, I’m not the Easter Bunny.
Mom kept her pouch of holiday magic throughout her life, sharing it with anyone who believed. Even now, I half expect to wake up Easter morning to find a bunny trail.