Long after I had given 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. People were nicer to each other, the food tasted better, there was excitement in the air. It was as if she had 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 had symmetrical branches that were strong enough to bear the weight of ornaments, lights, and tinsel, but soft and green enough to still filled the house with that herbal, organic fragrance that only a real tree can diffuse. The stockings she knit that bore the names of her children hung on the mantle.
Christmas breakfast was cinnamon buns laid out on the cookie sheet in the shape of a Christmas tree, dusted with green sugar and dappled with cinnamon dots. Dinner was a Norman Rockwell painting, complete with the perfectly cooked turkey, special occasion china and silverware, candles and flowers on the table. Because we were a family surviving on a meager public school teacher’s salary, the presents weren’t large and extravagant. Instead, she made every one of them special; from what filled our stockings to decorated boxes under the tree, to little gifts hidden among the tree branches, left there by Santa himself.
Yet, Easter held an even more magical meaning for Mom.
Mom was a Christian, and followed all of the Christian associations of Easter. But, she also relished in its significance as the end of the long, cold nights of winter and the beginning of spring. The sun was a little warmer, a little more golden. She too would be lit from the inside with excitement over the discovery of the first of the year’s flowers in bloom – bright purple and white crocuses, yellow daffodils, and pink and purple hyacinths. It was as if the robins announced their return to her personally, with their warbling, erratic song. It was only a matter of time before the butterflies, her spirit animal, would start to appear.
The Earth was waking up again, and for Mom, Easter was the royal crown atop its welcome return.
There was a lot of church. Mom and Dad sang in the Easter morning cantata. We were in church on Maundy Thursday, honoring Jesus’ Last Supper with his dear disciples. We were back on Good Friday, marking the tragic moments of Jesus’ being nailed to the cross and dying. By Sunday, however, the sadness was done and the celebration begun; and it had bunny trails.
The moment daybreak entered my bedroom, my eyes would pop open in anticipation of the little pieces of paper, cut into the oblong shape of a rabbit’s foot, that formed a trail beginning at the edge of my bed, or sometimes even on the bed right next to my face. The Easter Bunny had come!
The bunny trail took me all over the house in search of the brightly colored 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. The adventure of finding eggs was almost as exciting as the reward for finding them – my Easter basket. It was filled with my mother’s favorite candies – black and spice jelly beans, malted-milk balls, tinfoil-wrapped chocolate eggs, bunny-shaped chocolate, marshmallow peeps, even the too-sweet, messy Cadbury Creme Eggs. How did the Easter Bunny know how much my mom loved black licorice jelly beans?! What a wonder.
And if we traveled at Easter, the bunny trails followed us – clever, that Easter Bunny.
How was he going to find us hours away from home at my aunt and uncle’s house. Did he know to look there for me? Sure enough, in the wee hours of the morning, I heard him hopping around in the living room of their house. It might have been my Maine-born uncle making coffee, but I’m pretty sure it was EB. Not wanting to make EB disappear without delivering his trail, eggs, and basket, I forced myself back to sleep. A couple of hours later, lo and behold, all were there, and Easter could continue.
Another year, Dad decided that he had to attend the Sunrise Service at the Iwo Jima Memorial in Washington, D.C. Surely, EB was not going to find us in a motel somewhere outside of Washington, D.C. How wrong I was! Even in a simple box of a room, when my eyes fluttered open for the first time, there they were – bunny trails. The Easter Bunny had to be real.
I don’t remember how old I was when the bunny trails and my personal relationship with the Easter Bunny ended. There was no heart-wrenching moment when an older sibling revealed the truth. Most of my mother’s favorite candies became mine too – except Peeps and Creme Eggs. Yuck! The bunny trails just faded into the history of our family, like so many other, far less significant memories.
While the Easter Bunny retired from trail making, Mom still 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.