The Case for Plastic Eggs
When I was little, my mom and I would dye eggs for the basket that sat in our kitchen during Easter. First I’d make designs on the eggs with a wax crayon, which was specifically formulated so that you couldn’t see what you were drawing. I always loved watching a crudely formed ladybug or a badly misshapen rainbow revealed in the depths of the dye cup. No matter how neat the attempt, the result always looked like a drawing someone might discover in a long-forgotten cave. (“Look, Professor! It’s some kind of Paleolithic rabbit! And see? None of its limbs are attached to the body! Must be some ancient cultic ritual!”)
Nevertheless, I decided to continue the tradition with my own kids. I imagined that my four-year-old daughter and I would take turns dipping eggs into little cups of vinegary dye. After the eggs had dried, my husband could help our sixteen-month-old son put stickers on them. I’d take pictures of it all—a perfect page for the scrapbook!
Nina looked cute in her little white outfit, and my husband gave Torin a quick bath to make sure he was picture perfect, too. I opened our “Deluxe Egg Decoration Kit.” Hmmm. No wax crayon. Nina protested, but I promised she could use her regular markers. I set out bright plastic cups, and Nina put a dye tablet into each one. I measured the vinegar, and Nina poured. She laughed as the tablets fizzed, and marveled as I showed her how to use that precarious metal egg-holding hoop that you have to bend yourself.
I should have taken her picture right then. At that moment, the evening was full of promise.
My husband brought the baby in, dry and naked except for a loose-fitting diaper. This is not an unusual sight at our house. My husband hates constrictive clothing and, assuming his son does too, he fastens diapers so that they often settle somewhere near Torin’s knees.
“I’ll be right back,” my husband said. “I just want to switch the laundry around.”
I was torn. Yes, I want to encourage any proclivity my husband may show toward doing housework. At the same time, Nina was gleefully dropping eggs into cups of dye, my son was nearly naked, and I hadn’t taken a single picture. I was wrestling with a reply as my husband walked out of the kitchen.
“Mom! I can’t get this egg out!” Nina had her hand in a cup, her white ruffle cuff hovering millimeters above the orange dye.
“Wait! Take your hand out of that cup!” I ran toward the sink and grabbed a paper towel. Nina dutifully lifted her hand out of the cup and then kept lifting, until her dye-covered hand was high above her head. Orange liquid dripped down inside her sleeve.
Alerted to the interesting stuff going on just above him, Torin reached up to the table, grabbed a plastic cup, and poured purple dye all down his bare chest.
“No!” I shouted, but it was too late. Torin dropped the half-empty cup on the floor and burst into tears. “It’s OK, It’s OK,” I cooed, reaching toward him. Then I stopped. If I picked him up, I was going to be covered in purple dye. Nina’s arm was still raised, although she was now bent over the table to watch her brother; I didn’t see any dye on her blouse yet. I looked from one child to the other, weighing my options.
The baby turned toward me, arms up. His chest and stomach were purple, but his loose diaper, puckered out in the front, had funneled all the liquid into its super absorbent interior. Even at that moment, I was pretty impressed. They never mentioned this kind of thing in the diaper commercials, and it was darned handy.
My son took two steps before he slid in a puddle of dye beside the fallen cup. He landed with a full-bodied splash. Perhaps if the outside of his diaper had been as absorbent as the inside, the effects of that fall would have been different. Instead, he became an intense, if extremely short-lived, purple fountain: dye sprayed out in a high arc around him and landed with a sound like rain.
I surveyed the blast area. Purple liquid dribbled down the chair legs, the trash can, the shelf of dry goods. My daughter, still leaning over, had been in the line of fire; however, her upraised sleeve took the brunt of the assault. (Never mind about that paper towel now.) My son lay face up on the floor, his chest showing reddish streaks where the skin had been stained by the initial down poor. His face was red too, but that wasn’t the dye. He took a huge breath of air and began to let out a wail that would have been heard by the whole neighborhood--if he hadn’t been trumped by his sister.
“Maaaaaa-maaaaaa!” she shrieked. “Torin used all my purple, and I wanted it!”
In this year’s Easter picture, Nina proudly holds a basket of eggs, dyed, scribbled upon and covered with stickers. Her little brother stands smiling next to her, his red shirt hiding his stained torso. Their happy faces show none of the emotional trauma that scarred their mother. I’ll put this photo in the scrapbook, and I will cherish it. After all, it will be a tribute the last year we dyed Easter eggs—at least for a few years. I already picked up a pack of plastic ones on close-out.