One of the many things I enjoy about my mother-in-law is her habit of surprising people with gifts of the mundane. Think laundry detergent and lint rollers, measuring spoons and meat thermometers. Her rationale: “Nobody wants to spend money on that crap.”
Smart lady. She is so right. While initially I found these sorts of gifts baffling, soon I realized that I could take the $15 I would have spend on a giant container of high-efficiency laundry detergent and get myself a new MAC lipstick instead. Ahhh. Small luxuries.
The annual Easter egg hunt is a magnificent celebration of these types of gifts. My in-laws search far and wide for random inexpensive things that everyone needs. Then my MIL sorts them into piles kind of by price and covers the piles under a tablecloth so when we show up, there’s a big lumpy pile of wonderment on the dining room table.
My sister-in-law (48), husband (44), nieces (15 and 17) and I (39) traipse around the backyard looking for eggs (some of which my father-in-law has hidden in plain sight, like we were all still 5) while MIL yells from the deck, “You’re each supposed to get 12!” And we all stop and count and those of us who have found too many eggs hand them over to the others.
And then we realize we’re still missing a few and my FIL tries to remember where he hid them all and describes the most covert locations: “Did you get the one in the plant pot around the corner? How about the ones behind the wood pile? I think there were two under the rhododendron…”
Once we’ve collected all the eggs, we go into the house and open them all. Inside each egg, my MIL has tucked a slip of paper with a number, corresponding to the number of piles of gifts she has on the table. Again, we’re each supposed to have X number of 1s, Y number of 3s, et cetera, so there’s more swapping.
Then… the selection. She pulls the tablecloth off like a magician to reveal piles of lip balm and 9-volt batteries, nail files and miniature flashlights, candy bars (hey, it’s Easter) and plant fertilizer spikes. And always one section of scratch tickets. For the pile designated 1, we choose our treasure in alphabetical order. Andi selects, then Grace, Kathleen, me, then Tim. For the second pile, we go in reverse. Then we move on to youngest to oldest, oldest to youngest, then something like order of birthdays until we’ve mixed it up in a bunch of different ways and all gotten to pick first. (I have no idea how she came up with these rules, but it’s part of the fun.)
We all go home with piles of silly little conveniences. Every time I reach for one throughout the year – especially things I never would have gotten for myself – I think of the Easter egg hunt and smile.
Hula-girl emery board, anyone?