Dead ducks? Peeps in Jello?

As a kid, Easter was big.

Of course, it is today, too. But in a much different way.

As a kid, Easter was jelly beans and eggs and baskets. And, one year, two ducklings.

This was before the MSPCA and PETA warned parents not to give live animals as gifts. Evidently, my father fell in love with the two tiny creatures and brought them home to my brother Gene and me.

But, ducks grow. And do very unguest-like things on furniture and floors. So they were soon moved outside into our suburban yard, inside a quickly crafted garden wire fence.

Where they continued to grow and, frequently, escape. One day, they were gone. To a farm, my father said, where his friend Leo had a lot of other ducks for them to play with.

Now, I never met Leo, but I remember his name a half century later. Because Leo not only did indeed have a lot of other ducks, he also prepared a lot of ducks for dining tables.

Although my father insisted they were not our Easter gifts, we had duck for dinner the following Sunday.

Easter baskets were always discovered in our bedrooms on Easter morning. I must admit to sticking sharp objects into chocolate bunnies to find out if they were hollow, solid chocolate or hiding some inedible white cream.

No gourmet when it came to jelly beans, I loved them all. Well, except for the black ones, which I still don't like. Given a choice...red, green or white.

And peeps. Those (awful) marshmallow creatures. Generally yellow chickens. I never knew they were called peeps until a couple years ago. But I never liked them. Cute, but inedible. And, just this week, a food column had you burying them in jello for Easter dessert. I don't think so.

We always dyed hardboiled eggs. Hid them. But never ate them. My brother and I would take turns hiding them, so the other could find them. We always missed a few, generally finding them weeks later.

Eventually, mother taught us to blow the eggs out and just decorate the shells. Rather disgusting process, if you're not fond of raw eggs, but they didn't smell bad weeks, or even years, later.

One year my mother got an elaborate, decorated egg--hard black enamel like finish, with flowers carefully painted all over it. She thought it was china and put it in the breakfront. It took a long time for us to figure out where the rotten smell was coming from.

As a young mother, I ruined one of my kids' Easters just because I couldn't frost a lambcake. An aunt gave it to us to take home. You know, you bake a cake in the shape of a lamb (I don't know how, ask my Aunt Lillian) and decorate it with beautiful white fluffy frosting, something really neat for eyes and lips, and green grass around it.

Well, the cake was naked. So it would travel. And I had to decorate it, with Cathy and Chris thinking it would be as beautiful as the one the aunt always served. I had no idea how to frost it.

First I knocked the ears off. Sticking them on with toothpicks, I knocked the whole head off. While I was gluing it back on with the weak, runny, but not fluffy, frosting, the whole thing started to crumble.

The kids realized that I was not doing a good job, and had, indeed, ruined their cake, and spent the rest of the days alternately sulking and crying. I, of course, informed the aunt that if she couldn't frost it, I didn't want it. And she hasn't made us a lambcake since. Frosted or naked.

Today, no bunnies, no ducks, no peeps. No colored eggs, solid or blown.

Just reflection. A beginning.

Father Kyriakos Saravelas, Dean of St. George Greek Cathedral, Springfield reminded me recently that this Holy week is a journey, from death to life, the ancient promise of new life, a time to stop and take stock of the importance of life.

A season of hope, familial ties, and traditions.

Happy Easter to you.

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