These are my sentimental favorite stories from my parenting years. Beginning with a series of bone-headed missteps that reach near epic proportions, I finally earn a bit of success and redemption.
Based on my good memories of Easter as a child, I looked forward to carrying on the tradition for my kids. Every year, we went to my grandparents’ home the night before Easter for dinner and colored the eggs with them. My aunts were older teenagers at the time that showed us little tricks on egg coloring to make them more beautiful and unique. Rob and I would wake up early the next morning and head downstairs in our pajamas to begin the hunt for the eggs, candy kisses, jellybeans, and the giant Easter baskets for each of us. My mom would even add the “magic touch” by dipping her thumb and two or three fingers in flour and dab the Easter Bunny’s “footprints” along the rug throughout the house.
After the hunt, we all sat down for breakfast before going to church. My dad always cracked open his hard-boiled eggs on his forehead just for fun, and we thought that was pretty damn funny for some reason. Since then, I started cracking them open the same way, and my kids got a good laugh out of it too.
One Monday morning after Easter, we got ready for work while Kaveh and Kian showered and dressed up for picture day at school. During breakfast, I grabbed an egg out of the refrigerator that looked like a failed coloring experiment because it turned out an ugly brown instead of brightly colored red or yellow. I told Kaveh to crack it open on his head to see what it feels like. He said he didn’t want to because he thought it would hurt. I reassured him that it wouldn’t hurt because the shell gets softer when you boil it, but he still wouldn’t give it a try. I figured that once he had one cracked on his head, he would see that it doesn’t really hurt, so I impulsively reached across the table and bonked it on his head. Of all times, this egg seemed to have had a harder shell and didn’t break open. It just hurt him like he thought it would. He looked up at me with surprise and exasperation and yelled out “Hey!”
I felt sorry for him as he sat there with his eyes scrunched tight and holding his hands over his sore forehead. I figured I must have had a bad angle on it, so when he least suspected, I snuck behind him and cracked it open right on the top of his head. To my disbelief, raw egg and yoke spilled all over the top of his freshly shampooed hair! Oh, so that was why it didn’t crack open the first time, I realized. It wasn’t a hardboiled easter egg after all, just an organic egg with a brown shell.
“Daddy, why did you do that!” he cried out. I told him I was so sorry, that I didn’t know it hadn’t been boiled, but he didn’t believe me. He ran upstairs to tell Mommy with the egg matted all over his hair and dripping into his face on picture day.
These damn brown eggs became an issue on the following Easter when I went to the store and absent-mindedly bought the organic ones out of force of habit. Pooneh took them out of the grocery bag and looked at me like I was an idiot. “How do you expect the kids to color brown eggs?” Back to the store I went, shaking my head without even saying a word.
It wasn’t always easy being the Easter bunny. Kaveh caught me red-handed hiding the eggs one night when he snuck out of the room and spied on me from the top of the stairs. Luckily, he was only two years old, so I made up some story like I was just pretending until the real Easter Bunny came. He bought it and completely forgot about it afterwards.
Since the Persian New Year usually fell around the same time as Easter, and the No Ruz parties were always on a Saturday night, we often drove home late the night before Easter Sunday, feeling totally exhausted and sleepy. Nevertheless, I would dutifully stay up as long as it took to hide the eggs, candy, and Easter baskets. One April Saturday night when Kaveh was about seven years old, he said he wanted to go to bed early because the Easter Bunny was coming. My eyeballs just about bulged out of their sockets because I had completely spaced it. “Are you sure tomorrow is Easter already?”
“Yes Daddy, all the kids and teachers at school were talking about it,” he replied.
I asked Pooneh, but she wasn’t sure either.
I couldn’t believe I’d forgotten Easter! I didn’t have any eggs colored, Easter baskets, or even any candy to hide. After we put the kids to bed, I ran out to the store hoping they hadn’t closed yet. I bought the Easter baskets and candy, but it was too late to boil and color the eggs. I improvised by buying colored plastic eggs instead and filled them with jellybeans, candy kisses, and dollar bills. I went to bed feeling satisfied and relieved that I didn’t spoil their Easter Sunday. I would never have forgiven myself for that lapse because Kaveh would have started disbelieving in the Easter Bunny and the magic would be lost.
The next morning, we all had a blast finding the eggs and candy, and to my surprise, they even liked the plastic eggs better than real eggs because they each had a different surprise in them. In fact, Kaveh had become a little apprehensive when breaking open the hard-boiled colored eggs after that incident the year before. I called my parents to wish them a Happy Easter, but my mom laughed and said “What do you mean? Easter isn’t today, it’s next Sunday!”
I was dumbfounded. I just sat in stunned silence for a few seconds before I could reply. “You’ve got to be kidding me.” I didn’t know what to say to the kids, so I didn’t say anything at all.
When I picked them up from school the next day, they had very perplexed expressions on their faces. I asked what was wrong and they explained, “Our friends at school and even our teacher said Easter wasn’t yesterday, it is next Sunday. So why did the Easter Bunny come to our house yesterday and hide everything a week early?”
I had a day to think about my reply, so I had a ready response, “Because the Easter Bunny has so many houses to go to on Easter that goes to some houses early.”
They didn’t seem to be satisfied with my answer but let it go for the moment. On the way home, Kaveh asked, “Daddy?” Uh-oh, I knew what was coming. I looked at him through my rearview mirror and saw him staring back at me with a cute little know-it-all grin. “You’re the Easter Bunny, aren’t you?” I denied it until we got home and then pulled him aside. I admitted that I was, but that I didn’t want to say it in front of Kian because it is more fun for him to believe in the Easter Bunny at his age. He kept his word, so at least the magic of Easter would live on in Kian’s mind for another year or two.
Now that Kaveh knew there was no Easter Bunny, he began having his doubts about Santa Claus too. He wrote a letter to Santa and told me to mail it to the North Pole. It read: “Dear Santa, are you real or not?” It broke my heart, because as much as I liked pretending to be the Easter Bunny, he was no comparison to the “Big Man in Red,” and I wasn’t ready to give him up just yet. Especially for Kian’s sake, who was still only five years old, I really wanted them to believe in the magic of Santa for couple more years.
Several days later, one of my portly patients with a big white beard came to see me in clinic. I joked with him that he should still be busy in the North Pole this time of year, and he replied with a proud smile that, in fact, he has been dressing up as a hired Santa Claus for many years. I explained my situation and he agreed to come by our house on Christmas Eve to surprise my kids. Pooneh became so excited that she invited our friends and their young daughter, Ava, over for dinner. I told him to call me when he arrived so that I could sneak out to give him the letter that Kaveh wrote. I also gave him three gifts to personally hand out to each child. I told Pooneh to be sure to have all three kids open the door when he rang the doorbell. Meanwhile, I strategically positioned myself on the porch so that I could get a picture of their surprised expressions when they answered the door.
They couldn’t believe what they were seeing! Here was Santa at our home, dressed in the most magnificent Santa suit I had ever seen. He had Kaveh’s letter in his hand and held it out to him. “Is this your letter I have in my hand?”
Kaveh let out a sheepish whisper, “Yes.”
Santa stooped forward, casting his gaze directly into his eyes and asked him to touch his beard. “Tell me, is this real?”
“Well, what do you think of me now?” Santa asked earnestly as a smile slowly crept across his cheeks.
Kaveh didn’t say another word but flashed a beaming smile and lurched in for a great big hug around his waist with Kian and Ava quickly joining in.
He sat down on the couch with them and began to read from his own authentic looking tome of Christmas stories. Then he put the book aside and recited the poem “T’was the night before Christmas” from memory while they gazed upon him with reverence and adoration, as if in a dream. He wasn’t finished yet as he went on to eloquently explain what he felt the magic of Christmas and “believing” was all about, and summarized by saying, “As long as you believe in me, I will always be real, no matter how old you are. Don’t ever forget that.”
He finished up the visit by sitting each child on his lap in turn and handing them the gift that they had asked for, while we took lots of pictures. As he was leaving, we walked him out to the porch to thank him and say our last goodbye. Kaveh looked around and asked him where his sleigh and reindeer were. Santa said he had to park them in the nearby mountains because they get scared by the noisy cars. Wow, quick thinking and nice answer, I thought to myself. I couldn’t have been more impressed with my hired Santa, and Kaveh was once again a true believer. In fact, his whole class became believers after he told them that Santa actually came to his house, and Kaveh himself became somewhat of a school celebrity!
Unfortunately, it only lasted until a year or two later when he found the wrapping paper that Santa had brought his gifts in, hidden in the guest room closet.