Saturday was the town Easter Egg Hunt at our country house in New Paltz. Last year, the egg hunt was unmitigated joy, face painting, baskets loaded with colored eggs, an appearance by the Easter Bunny himself, candy eaten scandalously in the backseat of the car, little faces smeared in chocolate. In a word, awesome.
This year, the egg hunt began with weeping. And ended in nudity and weeping. This is sometimes how it goes for us.
Every Easter Sunday, David gets up at the crack of dawn with a garbage bag full of plastic eggs - that took us hours the night before to fill with candy and little tiny annoying useless toys - and litters the yard and the surrounding woods with them. The kids jump out of bed on Sunday morning to find a proper Easter basket. They rifle through that for awhile, pop a chocolate or ten into their mouths for breakfast, and then, grab a bag and hord - I mean, find - as many eggs as they can.
The town egg hunt is a whole different affair. The whole town comes out. There are firetrucks, a huge bunny walking around shaking hands and posing for pictures. There are moms selling cupcakes, an easter basket raffle, and several large expanses of grass flush with colored plastic eggs. Then someone blows a whistle and seemingly sweet, nicely-raised kids knock each other down and rip eggs out of each others hands, all so they can fill their baskets with crap, as parents look on proudly.
It's a nice event. With nice people. Which is why I was surprised when the whole thing turned to shit on me.
This year, David was working so I took them to the hunt by myself. We have ballet (Edie)and gymnastics (Lucy) Saturday mornings, so we each brought outfits to change into for the hunt...well, not Edie, she forgot hers, so we swung by the house on the way to the hunt and David handed us a fresh change of clothes through the car window, with the motor still running, and everyone agreed the clothes were good - or so I thought - and we sped off toward the hunt.
Did I tell you it was cold? It was. And that it started to rain? It did. Which is fine. We are Fosters. We are tough (Lucy hates it when I say that) We parked the car and started to change our clothes. The hunt was about to start. We had five minutes. We could do this. Lucy was in and out of her clothes in under 30 seconds. Nothing gets between her and a good race with candy at the end of it. Edie was looking at her clothes. The wrong clothes. The ones David got very very wrong. She burst into tears.
Lucy was looking out the window at the kids lining up for the hunt. Edie started screaming and throwing the clothes and sobbing harder. I had a brilliant idea. I was calm. We could solve this problem. She could wear her ballet outfit, her tutu even. She loved her ballet outfit.
That's when she became inconsolable. The very idea was a misery. The rain was really coming down. Lucy was antsy, eager, afraid she'd miss something important, but still trying to be patient, still thinking of her sister before her own needs. I knew we had to get out of the car and start heading over or we'd miss the whole thing. I didn't want Lucy to miss any of the hunt because of Edie's tantrum. One way or another we were going to cross this grass and go to a friggin easter egg hunt. I gave Edie the choice: ballet outfit or Daddy's outfit.
I grabbed her spare clothes, the hated clothes, thinking I could get her to put them on, picked her up and told Lucy to head on over to the hunt, we'd be right behind. Edie started screaming... "Go home...Change...my...clothes...Change...my...clothes..." She wiggled out of my arms and went full throttle into a kicking tantrum right there in the wet grass which just totally pissed her off. Parents were staring. Kids heading to the hunt were staring. I tried to stay focused on Edie, getting her through this, keeping my own temper at bay. To hell with those nosey starers anyway. Had they never had a crying child before? Let 'em think whatever they think.
She went limp on the ground, kicking, screaming and raging from the wet grass and...this is where it gets worse...taking off her leotard. It's 40 degrees, it's raining, I can no longer see where Lucy is in the hords of kids with Easter baskets and Edie has pulled her leotard around her waist and was screaming, I want to change my clothes...I want to change my clothes..."
I grab her off the ground. It wasn't easy lifting her from a dead lift, but I do it, awkwardly, losing a leg here and picking up an arm here, hoisting her up against my hip and then into my arms. It wasn't pretty. I see more staring. All the while people think my next move will be to dump her into a non-descript white van and pull away into oblivion. At this point, no one would be able to tell the difference between me and a hideously motivated stranger. There's not a single inkling this wailing child knows me, let alone loves me.
I head into the crowd to find Lucy. Edie is wailing and half-naked in my arms. She's thrusting her torso so I can't get a solid grip on her and I keep having to wheel her around in different directions in my arms. I have no idea where Lucy is. I know she's there, but I hate not being able to lay my eyes on her.
Also, I have a huge winter coat on, so I look like the most selfish person on the planet, holding my nearly naked daughter in my arms. I see Lucy is okay. She is shaking hands with the Easter Bunny. She's smiling. Such a big girl, able to take care of herself. Twinge of guilt. I see a friend of David's who has a child Edie's age and I ask him to look after Lucy, which he does. He has no choice, really. I'm struggling in the deep end and he's the only one with a life vest. His act of good will gives me some room to manuever.
I take off my winter coat, while holding Edie's squirming body with one hand and whip it around her and head to the cupcake stand. So, now, I'm cold. But I don't care because she is much less visibly naked than she was a few seconds ago. But she's still fighting it. I go to the cupcake stand mostly because there is a tourist building there and I think I might be able to go inside, talk to her, settle her and get her warm. But no, the Cupcake Mom, says it's closed.
I decide to buy Edie a cupcake. There are moms there. I know there is camraderie here. They've been here. They'll get me. I just need a reassuring smile from one of my sisters, a bolt of energy to help me find what Edie needs and give it to her.
The Cupcake Lady hears Edie asking for a change of clothes and assumes what she thinks is obvious - that I am actually preventing my daughter from wearing warm clothes and that I am subjecting to her to be naked in winter weather. The Cupcake Lady shoots the Cupcake Lady next to her a look. She comes around to the front of the table, and gets up in Edie's face and in a sugary voice asks the child in my arms: Honey, do you want mommy to get you some warm clothes? You are so cold, arent you?
Then, she looks at me as if I have no clue and says: Oh look at her, she's freezing. You have to put some clothes on her.
Cupcake Lady to Edie: Are you asking Mommy for warm clothes? You just want to wear clothes like the other children...
The mere mention of clothes makes Edie start flipping out again and wiggle even farther out of the coat I'm trying to keep around her. I realize I have no friends here. And I'm surrounded by police and mandatory reoporters and God help me, Waldorf school teachers, and if I don't get her out of there right this minute, I might actually end up in a child protective services office having to explain to David why they took custody of our daughter.
Sometimes, I write stuff like this for impact, for laughs, but I seriously had a moment where I thought these people were actually thinking I was mistreating, punishing, hurting my child. It was frightening.
I grab three cupcakes, get the last look of judgement and horror from the Cupcake Lady and sit with Edie in the warm, running jeep, semi-naked, eating cupcakes and watching Lucy scurry around the wet grass picking up eggs, until the hunt for eggs is over and David's friend - who saved my ass - returns her to me. I have a spare cupcake waiting for her. The screams have stopped. There are only wet cheeks, reluctant hugs and amends, whimpers and cupcake crumbs. We are putting it behind us. She's sitting on my lap in the front seat.
Turns out Lucy only got six eggs, two of which she shares with her sister. There is secret candy eating in the backseat and chocolate faces after all. But six eggs is a crushing Easter blow. No one can dispute that. We discuss it in detail on the ride home. Lucy decides this is only a runner up to the real one at our house on Easter Sunday. She decides this might be the worst Easter egg hunt ever.
Edie and I agree.