It’s all Uncle Mike’s fault. As a rule, I think he likes to take things to the next level, and that’s what he always did during out family’s traditional Easter Egg Hunt. See, I am the oldest of a large generation. I have two younger brothers and a small army of cousins. At last count, there are 17 people I consider 1st cousins in my family. Now, they aren’t all first cousins, but to explain the mechanics of my family tree may take the better part of a month, include a protractor, and smelling salts for the people who faint. So, with my brothers and I, there are 20 young people in my generation, but not all 20 participated each year. If you sprinkle in the Cuban Cousins and family friends, I’d say the average amount of Hunters each year was about 12. But like I said earlier, it’s all Uncle Mike’s fault.
|My brothers, cousins, and Mom acting crazy.|
I can’t remember exactly what year the Super Egg was born, but by the time I was fourteen, Super Egg Hunt festivities were in full swing. The Hunt stood as the culmination of a family gathering that spread throughout the weekend. Typically, my family would gather on Good Friday in remembrance of the Crucifixion. We’d eat fish (we kids would have fish sticks) pray, then decorate the eggs. It was that batch of decorated eggs that would serve during the first hunt on Easter morning, the one my brothers and I would partake in before going to church on Easter Sunday. After the church service, much of the family would gather at my grandfather’s house for some good food and general frivolity. My parents and different aunts and uncles would supply the eggs, stuffing them with candy mostly, but a select few eggs were always filled with money. It started with loose change, and, for the most part, the eggs would sport less than a dollar. But the Super Egg was a different story. It started with $20 or so, but each year, the Super Egg haul grew. Steadily, the contents increased, $30-plus, $40-plus, $50-plus, one year even eclipsing the $100 mark.
Now, for us older kids, it was really the only reason to hunt. For me, being diabetic, I couldn’t be interested in the candy-filled eggs. Instead of baskets of candy, my parents would stuff my Easter basket with paperback novels and t-shirts. The smaller hunts were fun, but really it was all about the Super Egg. Anticipation grew throughout the early afternoon, as the mothers would fill the different eggs and the children buzzed about, scoping the yard and trying to spy this year’s Super Egg Hiding Spot. Over the years, the party changed houses, but the most memorable Super Egg Hunts always took place at Abuelo’s. His backyard sported a pool (which each child needed to fall into as a family rite-of-passage), a tiki-hut, a bar, a small basketball court, a shed, several trees, hedges and bushes, and a canal. It really was the ideal terrain for such activities. The familyroom’s panoramic sliding glass doors let all of us study the grounds as the adults prepared the Hunt. And once we saw Uncle Mike moving from Dad to Dad asking for some Super Egg cash, there was almost no containing us.
|Us kids excitedly awaiting the Hunt. No surprise my brother Chris (Super Egg World Record Holder) is trying to sneak up.|
But contain us the adults did. Each year, as a group of adults hid the eggs outside, the children were forced into a hallway, and put in age-ascending order. Of course, I was always at the end of the line, right beside my cousin Andres, although he was a few months older than me. (Technically, Andres is the youngest child of my mother’s generation, but again, I’m not going to explain any further, since I’m not sure what your smelling salt stock currently looks like.) The older kids were usually given plastic bags to tote our haul, as we couldn’t be bothered with fancy baskets. Our single-minded goal was the Super Egg.
|Released for the Super Egg. The blur is Nicky, and the happy child behind is JJ.|
The release was done only a few at a time, the youngest children darting out first. As the older children impatiently waited our turn, the adults reveled in our anticipatory discomfort. Some adult always had to pretend one of the particularly young children had found the Super Egg, which we older kids knew was patently absurd. Uncle Mike would never let that happen. Still, it riled us up. Once we were released, they couldn’t get that sliding door open fast enough. We older kids poured out into the backyard, eyes sharply surveying the situation. Each of us would branch out in a different direction, absentmindedly picking up lesser eggs and asking some of the little ones if they’d seen Uncle Mike lingering somewhere.
Uncle Mike was really the master. He’d deke us into thinking the Super Egg was one place, then laugh uproariously when we’d fall for the dupe. We cased the grounds, rustling piles of leaves that looked unnatural, reaching into thorny bushes, and lifting scattered bits of trash. We’d check the pool, the tables, the shed, the basketball court, and the tiki-hut. We combed the yard. I would only pick eggs that had change inside, since candy did me no good.
|Chris checking the rafters of the tiki-hut.|
Uncle Mike had but one rule: the Super Egg (or something attached to it) could always be seen. I guess it was an effort to keep as much parity as he could. It was possible for one of the little babies to stumble upon the golden prize. So the longer the search continued, the more likely it became that one of the little ones would turn their attention from candy-filled plastic to fabled Super Egg. And after much futile effort and discovery of all lesser eggs, we’d begin the begging for clues. They started small. Uncle Mike would provide hints that would systematically shrink the search area, saying it was on one half of the yard, or it was above the waist line, or it was a certain adult’s eye-level. We ran about the place, skirting the pool, wondering if it was the year one of the little ones would take their spill into the water. As the search area shrank, the pressure mounted. So many little bodies in one place, hands groping, probing anything and everything in the vicinity. My brother Chris was always the best at this point. He’s won the Hunt more than anyone. He’d be the first inductee into the Super Egg Hunt Hall of Fame, but this year was my year.
|I found It!|
At fourteen, I knew I was reaching the end of my Super Egg hunting career. I might have one or two more years left, and I wanted to win. Chris had won more than three times, and he wouldn’t let a soul forget it. I can’t remember exactly what made me do it, but I pulled the drain cover off the pool and found the Super Egg. We had been walking right by it the entire time. It was my second win ever, and my last. It felt great. I don’t remember how much I won, but that didn’t matter. I could finally say I had found the Super Egg more than once. Sadly, the Super Egg Hunt is no longer a yearly tradition. Most of the children of my generation are too old to participate, and these days, parts of the family use Easter to vacation out of town. As a new generation of Hunters grows up, the legend of Super Egg Hunts passed are told. There aren’t as many Hunters these days, the number having dwindled to less than eight. I’m one of the few from my generation that adds to the Super Egg purse, but I do so begrudgingly. While the Hunts may only happen every other year or so, Uncle Mike’s flair still shines, and hopefully, my son Jason and I will be the first father-son winners of the Hunt, but he’d better hurry up and win because my nephew, Christopher Andrew, is almost a year old and will be ambulatory in no time.