(I had a mighty fine fiber adventure on Saturday, but I'm not going to tell you about it just yet. My gracious hosts took pictures which they've offered to share with me, and once I get those I'll write an account. In the meantime, an Easter memory.)
I was about twelve years old, and a dedicated goody two-shoes, when I signed up to join the Catholic Youth Organization associated with our base chapel. There was pressure at home to get out of the house, do something, make some friends my own age. Trouble was, I didn't like most kids my own age. The boys were as obnoxious as they'd ever been. The girls, who had always been my buddies, suddenly sprouted breasts and withdrew into giggling secrecy.
The CYO met near our house once a week, and was supervised by a quartet of happy, shiny adult volunteers. I hoped the adults could keep the other kids in check. If the whole thing became too much to deal with I'd simply walk home.
It wasn't so bad. Most weeks we'd just sit in a circle and talk about a topic of deep import (drug abuse was a favorite). Occasionally there were spaghetti suppers, field trips, or craft projects. Every once in a while we'd indulge in Good Works.
Most of the Good Works were pretty dull. We'd pick up trash along a stretch of road, polish the pews in the chapel, or sort clothes donated for homeless. As Easter Week approached, we were asked if we'd dye the eggs needed for the Interfaith Easter Egg Hunt. That was the kind of Good Work I could get into, even on a Saturday afternoon.
A lot of the other kids felt the same. About twenty of us showed up in the chapel kitchen, where 500 white eggs had been boiled by the Christian Ladies Circle and were awaiting decoration. One of the ladies directed us to a tall stack of dye kits in the corner, told us to help ourselves to sodas from the refrigerator...and left to get her hair done.
Not that, at first, you would have noticed anything untoward was going on. We didn't fling eggs or cups of dye at one another. On the contrary, as we sat dipping eggs with teaspoons and showing off our handiwork, we could have been an ad for Wholesome Teen Fun.
Then I found the crayons.
I was startled to find that some of my coworkers didn't know that if you drew on an eggshell with a crayon before you dyed it, the wax would resist the dye. You could decorate a egg with a message or drawing that way. It was much more fun that using only solid colors. I showed off a festive "HAPPY EASTER" egg and everybody clamored for crayons. There weren't enough in the kits to go around, so one of the boys snuck into a Sunday school classroom and came back with a box of Crayolas.
After the fifth egg, writing "HAPPY EASTER" lost its novelty. But Easter is short on alternative taglines. If these were Christmas Eggs we could have written "Joyeux Noel" and "Season's Greetings" and "Ho Ho Ho" and whatnot, but with Easter you're pretty much stuck with "HAPPY EASTER."
I did a bunny face, just to be different. But it's very hard to do fine detail with a crayon on an eggshell, so I gave that up. Then Satan, who was hanging around the chapel looking for somebody to bother, came over and whispered in my ear, "You know what would be funny?"
I picked up a blank egg. Giggling to myself, I wrote "THE EASTER BUNNY HATES YOU" and dropped the egg in the dye. As the dye coated the egg and the message showed up in large block capitals, it seemed unbearably funny and I burst out laughing. Heather, who was sitting next to me, looked over and squealed.
"Omigod I cannot believe you wrote that! That is so funny!"
This was an entirely unexpected reaction. Most of the CYO kids never noticed anything I did or said. Now they all crowded around my subversive egg and hooted.
"I'm totally doing an egg like that," said Heather. "Do another one!"
How could you top a slam from the Easter bunny? No problem. In these situations one has merely to wait, and Satan will oblige with inspiration.
"TOUCH THIS EGG AND DIE," I wrote. And dropped it into a cup of pink. As the message appeared, the crowd went wild.
All the way down the table things were haywire. About half the finished eggs going back into the empty cartons were suddenly saying the most dreadful things. Heather held up a two-tone (orange and blue) on which she had written "YOU'RE UGLY" in a legible, if lopsided, hand.
Suddenly I was the most popular kid in the CYO.
"YOU WIN A FREE PUPPY!"
"YOUR DAD IS AN ALIEN"
"NOBODY LIKES YOU"
"A CHICKEN DIED TO MAKE THIS EGG"
"YOU WERE ADOPTED"
And perhaps most ironically, from a kid who probably went on to become a Nietzsche scholar:
"GOD IS DEAD"
We were so enthusiastic that we finished 500 eggs in record time. When the Lady in Charge came back from the beauty parlor, the filled cartons were already in the refrigerator.
"Great job!" she said. "You'll be back tomorrow to help hide them, right?"
Oh yeah. We sure would.
I didn't go. In fact, I didn't even go back to CYO after that. It wasn't out of fear of punishment. All twenty of us had written nasty things, and one of the side effects of being a goody-goody is that when somebody points at you and says "He started it!" the adults don't believe it.
I just knew, somehow, that my brief, shining afternoon of popularity was a temporary fluke. I wasn't a bad child, really,* and when the others realized that I'd go back to being the little nobody. Better to go out on top and leave a fabulous memory behind you. Even if it's only written on an egg.
*I felt so guilty about this that I brought it up in confession. The priest told me to say ten Hail Marys, do something nice for at least one little kid, and think about pursuing a career in advertising.