Our family has gone to the same Easter party for twenty years. It’s the one constant in our seat-of-our-pants holiday celebration style. Matthew is special-occasion challenged and I’m not a fan of repetition or ritual. The Easter party has given our kids their one glimpse of a normal, predictable holiday, but with an unconventional old-Austin style.
Our mushrooming, morphing city still loves its tired out, over commercialized tagline of “Keep Austin Weird.” The Easter party was started when the slogan really meant something and continues to be a time capsule of the alternative, artsy, hippie culture that was dominant in Austin when I arrived thirty years ago.
The invitation came from Jan, one of the party’s co-founders, when it was just Matthew, Leo, and me. Jan had been Matthew’s professor and mentor when he attended the University of Texas.
Leo was three and we had just moved back to Austin from Minneapolis. Although we made a few life-long friends and tried our hardest to fall in love with the Twin Cities, our three-year stay ended as an unrequited affair. The culture was too buttoned up for us so we high-tailed it back to Austin as soon as there was an opportunity.
It was our first Easter after the move and the joyful, colorfully chaotic, loosely organized, pot lucking, egg hunting, bubble blowing, piñata bashing, cascarones smashing party punctuated our decision to move back to Austin with a giant exclamation point.
Fast forward twenty years, three more kids, and nineteen more Easter parties. We never missed one year.
The core group of steadfast, every-year party goers are a decade or more older than Matthew and me. We have watched their kids grow up and return with their children. Over the years people appear and disappear as life’s circumstances dictate, but there are always new faces and families with young children. The party is a welcoming, evolving organism.
We may periodically bump into our Easter friends during the year but our primary interactions are at the party, making the event an affirming celebration of renewal and catching up. It’s a refreshing pace of communication to actual hear the telling of a year lived rather than to gawk at sanitized snippets on a Facebook page.
About Valentine’s Day, one of my kids will ask about the Easter party. They invite friends and help fill eggs for the hunt and come with me to buy big bags of spring-colored cascarones. Finally the day arrives.
The party begins with a pot luck and Jan at the head of the serving table making her famous french toast. When it’s time to hide the eggs all the hunters have to go inside while the adults scatter candy eggs and cascarones throughout the yard.
The kids are let out of the house in waves, by age group, but within minutes it’s mayhem. The three glitter covered, extra-hidden, money eggs are the big prize and on every kids’ mind.
The egg hunt is followed by two piñatas – one filled with candy and surprises for the kids and another filled with what can best be described as the contents of a minibar for the early twenty-somethings.
Over the years I’ve noted that the thirteen and fourteen year olds begin to opt out of the egg hunt. Instead, they congeal to form a sulky, bored-looking mass at the side of the lawn, nervously looking at their phones or wandering off into the neighborhood. Once this occurs, this age group does not return the next year and will not step foot on Easter party grounds again until they are old enough for the minibar piñata or have a child of their own.
I watched Leo peel off and then Eli. Last year when the twins were thirteen they still stormed out of the door with big smiles on their faces to look for eggs. Things were different this year. Although they arrived with enthusiasm, I later found Georgia, Lila, and their friend sitting on the curb as the kids bolted out of the house. They sheepishly ask me if I would take them home.
Sigh. Too old for the egg hunt, too young for the minibar piñata. Easter as I have known it for twenty years is now over.
However, the circle of life continues. Leo, now in his twenties and minibar piñata approved, texted me from Oregon on his spring break, the night before Easter, to ask if we were going to THE party.
Like a salmon going upstream, the Easter egg will eventually roll back to the basket.