The pile of sand-encrusted snow that lived in the corner of the Reporter’s parking lot for the entire winter is finally gone. At the beach, piping plovers are building their nests, although a snowy owl was spotted just a day before. After the winter we had, even he doesn’t know it’s time to fly away. Maple trees shoot out the tiniest buds, forsythia bloom and our friends return from warmer places.
It must be spring. And Easter arrives this weekend.
When our son was small, we lived on a bridgeless barrier island in Florida; Easter was a tropical celebration. The year he was two, he picked out his own Easter hat at Target — a girl’s pale green straw hat decorated with flowers. He was so pleased with it, he plopped it on his head at the store and wouldn’t take it off for days.
On the Saturday before Easter, there was an egg hunt on Boca Grande, a neighboring island. As parent volunteers, our job was to keep back the hordes of older, more aggressive kids who pushed their way to the front. The signal sounded and they were off, pushing, shoving, grabbing the rubber ducks, plastic eggs and other small prizes scattered on the field. Even though they were divided into age groups, the timid kids never stood a chance.
Afterwards, it was time to pose with the giant Easter bunny — if you weren’t too afraid. The person inside that costume must’ve done something heinous in another life to have to wear that costume in the 80 degree heat.
Then it was back to our island for coloring Easter eggs at the firehouse. One of our young friends helped our son; cups of dye were knocked over, with more spilled on the newspaper-covered table than on the eggs. When they were done, there wasn’t an inch of him that wasn’t pastel-colored. His hands looked like they’d been painted purple.
On Easter morning, he rode up front of the horse-drawn haywagon with our neighbor’s kids to the sunrise service held at the beach. Because there was only one paved road on the island, golf carts were the preferred transportation; the road in front of the beach looked like the parking lot at Goat Hill. The service was held at 8 a.m.— sunrise, island-time — and there were Bloody Marys and mimosas for those who wanted to greet the day with a buzz. Everyone was there: locals, families and tourists staying at the nearby resort, all gathered together on a Sunday morning — even if they weren’t religious — enjoying the morning breeze, looking out over the turquoise water, listening to the preacher, singers, the squawking gulls.
An Easter egg hunt on the beach followed the service. My husband and I, with the help of another mom, had filled and hidden almost 500 plastic eggs. There were eggs tucked into palm trees or next to turtle nests, under palmetto fronds and nestled in sea grass. It was a test of survival, avoiding the biting fire ants and sand spurs — Florida’s revenge — tiny green balls of thorns that stuck in soft skin. The tourist kids cried and made their fathers pick them up. Our barefoot kids brushed them off and ran on.
A Shelter Island Easter has an egg hunt at St. Gabe’s but by the time we moved here, our son was too old — no three-year-old wants to compete with a middle schooler for eggs.
One of the reasons we came back here was we missed autumn and spring. Every dogwood blossom, tulip or cluster of daffodils is a prize we’ve won at the end of a long, tiring race.
Fly north, snowy owl, this winter is over.