We didn't color eggs at our house this year. And I miss it.
Why? Because our little Easter egg hunters have grown up. Because there is so much other food to eat at Easter dinner that no one will miss having to crack and peel the eggs and later pick the little pieces of shell out of his teeth. And other assorted grown-up excuses that all come down to: It's just not worth all the fuss.
All the fuss --- when you get right down to it --- was all the fun.
Easter egg-dyeing night at my family's house was a huge event. The excitement built from the moment Pop came home with a case of eggs. Not those Styrofoam containers that hold a dozen at a time. It was a big box of eggs stacked in little cardboard racks, straight from the farm.
"Boil some water, Buddy, the cackle fruit's here!"
Two of Pop's favorite things were calling Mom "Buddy" and eggs "cackle fruit."
That sent Mom scurrying for the big soup pots and made kids come out of the woodwork, eager to get in on the action. If there happened to be school friends or neighbor kids in the house, they were welcome to help, too.
We cleared off the big formica table Pop made to accommodate all 10 of us, and spread it with butcher paper. One year, we used newspaper and all our nicely colored eggs had little black words on them. We learned from our mistakes.
We scattered bowls of water around the perimeter and put a few drops of food coloring in each.
While the eggs boiled, a couple dozen at a time, Mom tied a dish towel around each little neck. They were the same towels she tied on for us to play Superman. But this time, she turned them around so they hung down the front to keep the colored water off our clothes. My towel still made me feel kind of super.
I took my position standing on a kitchen chair in front of the blue station, armed with a long-handled dipper Pop had fashioned from a coat hanger. Each dipper had an egg-sized loop at the end to cradle the egg as it took the plunge.
We looked like little surgeons, ready to operate. Bring on the patient ... er ... the eggs!
Mom put an egg in each kid's dipper and ... on the count of three ... we each carefully lowered the egg into the colorful soup. The longer it stayed in, the darker it got. The first ones were perfect --- solid blue, yellow, red, green. We put them in the middle of the butcher paper to dry and someone snapped a picture.
Then all heck broke loose. It became a fast-moving assembly line. Eggs would go from one bowl to another, mixing colors into all shades of oranges, purples, greens -- and one or two that dipped into every color and came out kind of grayish. There were half-and-half eggs and even some three-colored eggs.
Pop broke out a slab of paraffin wax Mom used for canning vegetables and carved off little pointed chunks with his pocketknife. We used them to draw pictures and to write our names, "Happy Easter," "Hi, Sis" and other silly invisible stuff on eggs. When we'd dip the eggs, the words and drawings magically appeared. Afterward, we chewed our little pieces of wax like gum. It was a treat.
After several dozen eggs were dyed, Pop brought out the cooking oil and dumped a teaspoon into each bowl. The last eggs came out speckled -- and shiny.
At the end of the night, the table was filled with eggs every color under the sun. A sea of message eggs, rainbow eggs, speckled eggs as far as the eye could see. The super surgeons were just as colorful with spots and smudges and handprints all over our towels, hands and itchy noses.
Mom picked the Bunny Awards, honoring the Most Colorful, Brightest, Most Unusual, Best Combination, Best Written and the coveted Best of Show.
The winners were placed gently into a big basket filled with Easter grass and went on display on the dining room buffet.
The rest were placed back in the box for kids' baskets, hiding and eating on Easter.
But be careful, my brother announced that one of the eggs we dyed wasn't cooked. He wasn't about to tell which one -- if he even knew -- until someone got a messy Easter surprise. Was he bluffing?
When our boys were little, we duplicated the process as best we could, down to terrycloth dish towels to protect their pajamas and the dippers I made from coat hangers.
Even though we didn't dye eggs this year, it was fun to think about all the times we did, sitting there in my backwards Superman cape.