Quinlan walked into my office the day after Easter, pursing her lips like she does when she senses deep, deep injustice in her presence. “Mom,” she said. Her tone was accusatory. “The jelly beans that were in our Easter baskets were the same ones you had in the pantry.”
She wouldn’t break eye contact with me. “Mom,” she repeated. “Why are the jelly beans the same?”
The time had come. I gulped–actually made a gulp sound–and half-heartedly tried to cover my (er, the Easter Bunny’s) tracks: “Well, honey, jelly beans are the same all over the world. It’s not like there are a bunch of different versions of, you know…jelly beans. So it makes sense that I’d have the same ones that were in your Easter basket.”
She looked at me, then sat down beside me in such a manner that I was pinned between her and the side of the couch. She didn’t say a word for a beat or two. Then:
“I know about the bubbles.”
“The what?” Her stare was so intense I broke out into an honest-to-goodness sweat. “The bubbles,” she said. “I know about the bubbles. I saw them in Dad’s office.”
She was talking about the bubble wands that must have fallen out of the Target bag I threw into David’s office earlier that week, along with six other shopping bags of candy and chocolate bunnies and cute notebooks and the requisite sunglasses-and-flip-flops gifts that end up in the kids’ Easter baskets every year. They were the bags I sort of maybe tossed onto the floor in the direction of the closet, not even trying to conceal them, because frankly, the Easter Bunny and I have never been friends. An oversized rodent in a creepy suit with giant anime eyes who breaks into my house on Resurrection Day? Look: I get that there are people who actively scoff at my belief in a man who rose from the dead, and so think this post is super ironic. I believe what I believe, though–so just hear me out.
I’m just talking about the Bunny, you guys. And I think it’s where I draw the line while shaping my offspring’s child-sized hearts and belief systems. I’ve never really wanted to sell them on the idea that a large, exceptionally clean and white-furred, blue-eyed rabbit wearing a plaid tie hops into our home Easter morning to drop Cadbury creme eggs and pastel Kit-Kats in three exact amounts in three exact ways into three identical baskets for them to find when they wake up on the day the Lord has made.
(Yes, I do recognize the irony that I’m still perfectly okay with them believing in Santa. Please keep in mind that I’m a person who once, as a college student, briefly held the conviction that drinking a certain amount of Mt. Dew in the afternoon could help cancel out the effects of my alcohol intake at parties later that night. Yes, that was idiotic, but it shows you that my thinking is not always, um, linear. And no, I’m not helping my case. Anyway, my theory with Santa is that when the time comes to discuss it with the little ones I’ll link him to the precedent of giving once set by St. Nicholas, which, in my head, totally validates the idea of a man in a red suit sneaking into their home one night a year. If none of that makes sense, remember that parenthood is hard. Just let me have my joy.)
My point is, David and I have never actively pushed the mythology of the Easter Bunny. If the kids want to believe that Peter Scary Rabbit helped Target reach its quarterly goals by purchasing enough Brach’s to in turn allow their dentists to purchase their next vacation homes, so be it. If they choose to believe that it was the Easter Bunny who was skulking around our backyard at 11 p.m. the night before hiding filled eggs and praying the neighbors wouldn’t call the cops on the two knuckleheads sticking their hands in the shrubbery, they can have at it, happily.
But Quinlan was onto us. Actually, both girls had been on to us for a long time, but were so afraid of disappointing me, because the Easter Bunny ruse is so fun for me (it is, of course. Creeping around dewy grass with a bunch of plastic eggs after a glass of wine is kind of a happy tradition for David and me. Allow me to repeat: let us have our joy). They didn’t want to hurt my feelings.
But I came clean. And I told them that their dad and I never really encouraged the idea of the Easter Bunny because we really want the focus with Easter to be on, you know, Jesus, and the candy-giving rabbit just doesn’t really jive with the day that’s considered by many to be the peak level of holy.
(Back to Santa: at least with him and all his presents you can connect him to the magi or God’s gift to the world, right? No? LEAVE ME ALONE SANTA IS SUGAR-FREE JOY).
(Also: is this the strangest post I’ve ever written? Have I managed to offend every single one of you reading this?)
The girls totally understood my stance. What’s even weirder is that they both said, separately, that what they actually like about Easter is that it’s simpler (i.e., Mom and Dad don’t get into any stress arguments over money/priorities/why the presents always seem to be wrapped at midnight). They didn’t ask or expect any gifts because, well, it’s not the point–and they were totally okay with that (we usually get them a few small things–I guess they’re so small they’d forgotten?). Saoirse has said she likes how relaxing Easter usually is–and that she looks forward to it all the same. (“I like church on Easter,” she said. “It’s so happy.” Quinn agreed: “Yeah. No offense, Mom, but it’s probably the only day I like church”).
But I told them something before I spilled the (jelly) beans. “Listen, though. If I tell the truth, you’re agreeing to take on a great responsibility.” They both looked at each other. Crap, I could hear them think. She’s going to give us another chore.
“You’re officially going to become magic-makers.”
I had them, now.
“What do you mean?” Saoirse asked.
“Well,” I said. I was smiling. “You get to be Easter Bunnies with me and Daddy. You’re now a part of the magic.”
They looked at each other again and squealed. “You mean we get to surprise Cian? We can help shop for candy? Can we put together his Easter basket??”
I nodded. “Even better: next year you can both stay up to help me and Daddy hide the eggs outside for the Easter egg hunt.”
Quinlan whipped her head to the side to face me. She looked crushed. “Wait. You mean you two do that?”
Quinlan asked me more questions: about magic and who’s in charge of it and why it’s often connected to holidays. I told her that magic, whether person-made or “real” (looking at you, Santa), is rooted in love. Love is what makes it possible, and, whenever they see magic in their lives, they should know it all comes from that same place: love, and the desire to bring joy to others. She thought, and said: “So that’s why you secretly turn our orange juice green on St. Patrick’s Day. I saw you hide the food coloring in your pocket.”
The kid might have a future in forensics, y’all.
“But I still believe in Santa,” Quinlan continued, quickly, like she wanted to put it out there before I said anything else. She looked at her sister. “You do, too…right, Saoirse?” Saoirse nodded, then gave me a sidelong look. Magic-maker, indeed.
We’re keeping our joy.
On the day Cian was born, he stayed awake until just before midnight, only to…
Last Saturday, the 16th, marked eight years since my dad died, and as is now…