The boys in matching creased khakis and pressed white shirts, funkified by sweater vests they chose themselves—Ben in smart argyle and Jack sporting an ironic stag's head, of course. And little Em in the frilliest, most ridiculously flouncy pale-pink dress you've ever seen, that perma-grin stealing the show from her shiny curls. "I give it thirty minutes, tops," mumbles my husband, as I snap photos between the boys' groans and eyerolls.
After our little photo session, we walk across the park to the starting area for the city's annual Easter Egg Hunt. The youngest two can barely contain themselves, both bragging about being the fastest and getting the most and finding the golden egg. Though Jack's assured us he's far too old for such nonsense, the way his eyes scan the egg-dotted grass field suggests otherwise. I hold his basket. Just in case.
The crowd grows and the excitement builds until a giant white bunny dramatically thrusts an air horn skyward. Hooooonk! They're off. Em and Ben scramble from egg to egg, snatching them up, filling their baskets as if their little lives depend upon it. You'd think Ben's age and athleticism would give him the upper hand, but his little sister makes up for lack of both with sheer enthusiasm. The kid's an Easter egg-gathering machine. Ben keeps glancing back at her, clearly getting nervous at the sight of Em's near-full basket, but my girl stays focused. So focused she doesn't notice that little blip of a tree root poking up out of the grass. Bam! In a second she's on the ground, white tights stained in dirt and grass, eyes wide, hand still clutching her basket, now empty.
Dave and I start running in Em's direction, but her brothers are faster. Ben arrives first, setting down his own basket so he can help his sobbing competitor up. Jack swoops in next, suddenly not too cool for egg-gathering, re-depositing as many of Em's eggs back into her basket as he can before the other little hunters get to them. Dave and I stop and watch as our three kids band together, scavenging what they can from the picked-over field, evening out the bounty as they go. "You can have all the pretty yellow ones," Ben says. His sister looks up at him and smiles.
When they're finally satisfied that there are no more eggs to be found, our bedraggled trio comes running up, laughing and beaming. Emmy suddenly remembers the sorry state of her Easter best, and panics. "I fell, Mom. I'm sorry," she says, her bottom lip starting to tremble. "Honey. It's OK," I say as I nudge them into an "after" photo, all untucked shirts and tangled curls, two full baskets and three sets of dirty knees. "Thirty minutes," Dave says, grinning.
I don't recall the last time I felt so happy he was right.