Contrary to my toddlers’ insistence, Easter is not about candy.
It is not about any one particular season either.
Or a religious holiday.
It is about home defense.
My parents introduced me to this special holiday by explaining how the Easter bunny would come to our house with a basket of candy that he’d prepared just for me.
To make it interesting, he hid the basket.
Some years they’d also throw in a comment about the effort of searching helping me burn through all the extra calories I’d be getting.
Those years, the basket was usually very hard to find and/or get to once found.
This all began when I was three. Here’s how my under-developed yet surprisingly sharp little brain processed this explanation:
Every year at Easter time, a giant magical rabbit will, while I am sleeping, break into my house – undetected by my parents - to leave me a special container of candy that It knew will appeal to me.
- Magic superpowers.
- Stalking, to determine at a minimum, my candy preferences.
- A veritable Raffles of the family Leporidae, able to break into any and every home inhabited by Christians. All in one night.
- Undetectable to those charged with keeping me safe.
And thus began the long chain of recurring nightmares wherein, every March or April, just as I’m getting over the whole Saint Nick trauma, a new terror that moves among us arises.
I was a stupid child. I understood that I was dealing with a very dark and powerful force, but I also didn’t fully grasp my own mortality.
In a misguided attempt to protect my younger sister from this Lagomorphic fiend, I took on a new mission in life:
To find and stop the Easter bunny.
And so the annual Spring tradition began:
- Act excited about Easter so my sister wouldn’t be afraid.
- Surreptitiously unpack the Xmas rubber sheets and install them on my bed to minimize the clean-up every morning in the week leading up to the horrific event.
- On Easter Eve, go to bed early, try to nap a little to build a reserve for the coming ordeal.
- Instead of napping, lie awake in bed, listening to every sound of that accursed house. Wait to hear my sister skip off to bed, and then, later, my parents knocking off. Mistake every groan of the house, every click and sputter of the refrigerator, as the sound of whiskered Death approaching.
- Creep out of bed with my talisman of protection, a stuffed animal we’ll refer to here as ‘Roosevelt’.
- Strain to stay awake despite my pounding heart burning through three days’ worth of calories in less than an hour.
- Fail to stay awake.
- Come to the next morning, somehow back in my bed, under the covers, still, amazingly, alive. Do a quick external inventory, making sure I’m still intact while checking for giveaway surgical scars suggesting organ removal.
This went on for some years. The night terrors became impossible to hide, and I was sent to a string of child psychologists. But the first one made a mistake that tipped me off to whose side they were all on – he had stuffed bunny rabbits in his waiting room.
Oh yes, the Bunny has his lucky paws in everything.
I tried to warn my peers in grade school, but they didn’t believe me.
The fools! They laughed at me! Laughed!
That’s when I started staying up with Roosevelt and my Spiderman camera. If I could obtain photographic evidence, then they’d have to listen.
They’d have to believe.
That came to an end when one Easter night, my mommy came downstairs after we’d all gone to bed. I had stationed myself on the sofa to await our midnight interloper, and only heard her in time to cram Mr. Spiderman under the sofa.
I survived that discovery by claiming to be sleepwalking.
Mr. Spiderman, however, and my faith and trust in my parents, were not so lucky.
For you see, two things were clear to me now. One, my Spiderman camera was not built with the act of cramming it under a sofa in mind. And two, Mr. Bunny, in stalking me to learn my candy predilections, had discovered my awareness of the threat It presented, and my efforts to stay up in order to confront It. And to stop me, It turned to Its well-placed, above-suspicion allies, a.k.a. my mommy and daddy.
I imagine the conversation went something like this:
Oh, yes, Sir.
We gots a problem, see? It’s that twerp kid of yours, see?
Ian? Oh yes, he is a very annoying twerp. Should I kill him, Sir?
No, no! That would draw too much suspicion, see? And he’s not ripe yet, see? I can’t eat human flesh that isn’t ripe yet, or fattened up properly with candy. Gives ‘em a bitter taste, see?
What would you have me do, oh Dark Lord and Master?
(sound of chomping on cigar)
He’s gonna try and stay up tonight, see? So youse is gonna come down from your room about 11:45, see, and ‘accidentally’ stumble across him. Get him back to bed, see? Slip him a mickey if ya have to, got it?
My parents’ ‘inability’ to detect the Easter Bunny’s intrusions made so much more sense after this realization.
So I had to up my game. In high school, I took up cricket just for the bat. I feigned obsession with the world’s most boring, confusing sport so no one would question why I kept the bat always at my side, why I slept with it under my pillow, why I walked in my sleep every other night with that bat in hand.
All to convince them I really was sleepwalking, and not just preparing for the coming Easter.
It took a lot out of me. My few friendships withered. My grades suffered. My health declined. Precipitously.
I learned more than it is safe for any one person to know about the game of cricket.
But it was necessary. Necessary to keep my sister safe.
And then, my first year back from college for Spring Break, something incredible happened.
The Easter Bunny lost interest in my family.
It didn’t come that Easter.
Or any Easter after that.
I asked my sister if the Easter Bunny had left her anything. She just snorted derisively and told me she hadn’t gotten a visit from the Easter Bunny since 8th grade.
I see it now. I see that It was playing the long game. But I admit, at the time, I was fooled.
I lowered my guard.
I desperately wanted to believe.
The AR-15 I’d planned to buy as soon as I turned 21? Unbought. By me, anyway. Given the current gun control climate, I’m sure someone bought it and has it safely tucked away in their rabbit-proof arsenal.
The cricket bat that had been my constant companion since freshman year in high school? Retired to the top shelf in the closet.
The windows that were nailed shut in my room? Pulled out with the back of a hammer.
The soul-consuming nightmares of whiskered, non-Euclidean horror that burned out most of my youth? I still have those, but only every other night or so now. I find getting blind drunk right before bed has a pleasant ‘black-out’ effect that diminishes the intensity of the nightmares significantly.
And then, out of the blue, the Missus turned to me last month after I’d tucked my toddlers into bed and said, “You know, the kids are old enough to appreciate it now. What should the Easter Bunny bring them this year?”
Her question came with just enough time for me to dust off the old cricket bat and fill out the paperwork to start the mandatory waiting period for a gun.
So if you’re wondering why this blog post is a little late, it’s because that paperwork is really complicated to fill out.
Oh, and I was up all night Easter Eve watching over my kiddos.
I love them too much to let that furry bastard harm a hair on their head.