Too Old for the Egg Hunt, Too Young for the Minibar Piñata


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.

Gerald and His Army of Clones



When we moved to our current home, nine months ago, it was clear that the grounds were possessed. Not by a gentle spirit or malevolent ghost but with a stalker-alpha squirrel with a distinctive tail. The squirrel became so familiar to us during the first few weeks of unpacking that the girls figured they should name him.


Like many super-natural beings, Gerald is omnipresent. We’re sure each squirrel sighting is Gerald because of his unusually shaped cat-like tail. Not following normal squirrel seasonal patterns, he never stops digging up his stashes or burying new treasures in every square inch of our yard, including potted plants. The ground around our house is dimpled with Gerald’s handiwork making it look like the hood of a car after a hailstorm.

He only stops to taunt our slow-witted, hyper-protective English bulldog, Otis. Although he never succeeds, Otis attempts to climb Gerald’s tree which ends with Otis on his back flailing his short legs and wiggling his odd pig-like body for the embarrassing eternity it takes to flip himself over.  The squirrel watches the struggle and then he’s gone.

Gerald lacks all fear of humans, too. We have a sliding glass door with large windows in our dining area that looks out on the pecan trees that form the boundary with our neighbor’s yard. Gerald lies outstretched on his stomach on a branch that is center stage to our view, creating a platform for him to have visual access inside our home whenever he wants. Rarely does a meal go by without Gerald joining us at some point.

Recently he has upped his surveillance and we’re sure that he has created clones to help him with his mission. The clones look and act like him except for the distinctive tail.  Gerald is their leader.

He has become more brazen in his tactics. Gerald, flanked by several of his minions, stands in what looks like a runner’s start on the wall that follows our entrance way and watches me walk to the front door. The wall puts the squirrels at eye level and only a foot or so away from my head.

The girls think he wants to be our friend. I know differently since I have met his gaze. Gerald has a look that warns me that it’s not out of the question that he and his clones may take me down.  Just last week I found Gerald standing on his haunches in the potted plant next to our front door, pecan in mouth, giving me the stink eye.

I don’t have a tidy ending for this blog post. The story will have to be left open but with one request. If I go missing, check the grounds around our house – surely that’s where Gerald and his clones will bury me.

All Partings


When my friend let me know that she was moving to Virginia, I looked away from her email, and remember feeling like a cloud of confetti spinning earth bound, flood lights accentuating the sparkle and separation between each piece.  

I’m not talking about the small paper-punch-cut-out confetti in cascarones but the big rectangular pieces that are used at political conventions or for a hero’s homecoming parade.  The kind of confetti that dances slowly and effortlessly to the ground, and for a minute or two makes the air come alive with movement, temporarily giving shape to what was once invisible.

In my thirties and forties I spent most of my time and effort collecting rectangles of identity to create a tightly pixelated sense of self. Those were the decades that screamed at me to try harder to keep it together and find a center of gravity within that could  hold all the pieces in orbit.

As I move through my fifties, I feel the accumulation of each beginning and end, the arrivals and departures, and all that happens in-between, blow past my edges, making room for more space, like confetti being shot from a cannon.  There is no center of gravity, no solid core to grasp.

I need more space to question and be reverent, to forgive and be forgiven, and try to fall in love with the world again, and again, and again, despite the fact that we will, as the Buddhists remind us, lose everything and everybody in our lives, including ourselves.

In my mind’s eye I see my Virginia-bound friend in my paper and mylar cloud. I breathe in her remarkable capacity to help others and sense of justice. She taught me to care more. Her note ended with the hope that our paths cross again. We all say that to the people who have mattered when we say goodbye, but it often doesn’t happen.

I was listening to a man who studied with Tibetan monks and he told me that his teacher described his life’s practice as the loving preparation for all partings.

The loving preparation for all partings.

Inherent in the statement is loss, but it’s loss turned upside down with the offering of a solution to the sorrow surrounding the impermanence of our time here on earth. If we are mindfully preparing each day to let go of the people and things that we love, then we will, by the nature of the task, be living in the present moment and attending to our lives with kindness and love.

It’s a mantra I use a thousand times a day to quiet my mind’s chatter in order to return to the breath.  Too often I choose to run recklessly, hand in hand, with my petty grievances and feel the constriction of my dense, pinched ego who wants to preserve itself at all costs.  

But there are other moments, also, when I am like a confetti cloud and can simultaneously be the empty space and the twirling rectangles,  feeling the stillness of floating back to earth for a brief and eternal moment.

For Marcia

“You have to remember one life, one death–this one! To enter fully the day, the hour, the moment whether it appears as life or death, whether we catch it on the in-breath or out-breath, requires only a moment, this moment. And along with it all the mindfulness we can muster, and each stage of our ongoing birth, and the confident joy of our inherent luminosity.”  Stephen Levine, A Year to Live: How to Live This Year as If It Were Your Last