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Easters of My Childhood

“ W h a t time are we hunting eggs?” That was the question my cousins and I asked over and over again, every Easter of my childhood. We relentlessly badgered the adults — wearing them down until one of them finally formed an egg-hiding committee composed of a few aunts, uncles and older cousins who felt they were too old to hunt. Filled with anticipation, my young counterparts and I watched them load armfuls of egg cartons into a pickup truck then drive away to that year’s location in the piney woods near my Grandmother Ona Jarriel’s Tattnall County farmhouse. The “hiders” returned an hour later, causing quite a ruckus as all of us “hunters” grabbed our Easter baskets and buckets and piled into the back of Uncle Wallace’s truck.

Almost every year, my mother would walk up to the side of the truck and point to the metal floorboard of the truck bed. “You sit your [behind] down on the floor and hold on tight with both hands. You hear me?” she’d say using her serious tone.

I’d nod, but I didn’t want to sit on the metal flooring. I wanted to ride on one of the two wheel well humps. Only babies sat on the metal flooring of the truck bed. Some of my cousins who were a few years older than me sat high on the sides of the truck bed or on the tailgate — their legs and feet dangling over the dirt road like spaghetti noodles. I knew she’d never go for that.

“Let her sit up there,” Uncle Wallace convinced her when I was about seven. He lifted me up and sat me down on one of the humps. He took my hands and guided them to the side railing showing me where to grip. “I’m going to drive slow. She won’t fall out.”

And guess what? I never fell out of the truck.

Loaded with the precious cargo of his nephews, nieces and his own children, Uncle Wallace drove slower than a turtle’s pace down Hub Jarriel Road to Josh Lanier Road to the corner of Pine Grove Church Road. As the truck rolled to a stop, we scanned the woods with our eyes and saw dozens of colored Easter eggs balancing in the branches and tucked in brown nests of pine straw along the forest floor. Uncle Wallace put the truck in park, and some of the bigger kids jumped out as if they were paratroopers jumping out of an airplane. They bolted. “Stop!” my uncle shouted. “No one makes a move until everyone is here and ready. Understand? Now if you want to hunt eggs, you better get over here. Now!” Uncle Wallace could seem mean continued from page

and commanding sometimes, but in reality, he was kind, gentle, and somewhat of a pushover. He loved us all, and we felt it.

The excitement was almost too much for us young ’uns to bear.

We watched the cars park along the paved county-maintained roadway. The doors swung open, and various family members unfolded and emerged from the vehicles. Someone helped my grandmother from a car and guided her to a lawn chair to oversee the big egg hunt. Grandmother Jarriel was the mistress of ceremonies, our special guest, our queen for the day (and every day). Easter was her day to shine.

After listening to the rules of the hunt, the adults finally turned us loose. We ran wild and plucked the colored eggs from their hiding places and gathered them in our baskets and buckets. Afterwards, we cracked them open and feasted on the boiled eggs in the woods, sprinkling each with lots of salt and pepper and washing them down with cold soft drinks we pulled from an icy cooler.

Years later, those egg hunts remain some of my favorite memories.

In my mind’s eye, I see all those colored Easter eggs — powder puff pink, canary yellow, grass green, sky blue, and yes, some were even brown. Those rainbow eggs were as lovely as they were delicious.

And I see the azaleas blooming in South Georgia underneath the peaceful canopy of pines and dogwood trees.

And I smell the freshness of the countryside — the organic aroma of newly fallen pine straw littering the ground and recentlyplowed dirt mounded in nearby fields.

Most of all, I see all the faces of our loved ones who gathered there to commemorate another Easter. So many of them are gone now and buried deeply in Mother Earth’s ground. I sure miss seeing those faces and hearing their laughter. I miss their presence. I guess what I’m trying to say is — I miss the Easters of my childhood.

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