the gifts that live

Today would have been our silver. Twenty-five years ago, Chris and I got hitched at Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Washington, Conn., a pretty stone church that my mother liked to call Our Lady of Perpetual Motion.

Three priests presided. Music was provided by one violinist (my mom), one trumpet player, two organists and a gospel choir. A friend snapped photos. My brother-in-law ferried us in Chris’s old Corolla to the reception, which was held in a church basement down the road that we rented for 60 bucks. The meal was pot luck. I’m not kidding. Pot luck. For entertainment, a buddy of ours played guitar. Stout-hearted friends took control of the kitchen, and washed, and washed, and washed.

I think of that day and wonder how we did it. How we managed to fall in love so wildly, so quickly, with such conviction. Four months after our first date, we got engaged. Again I’m not kidding. Four months. Six months after that, we were married. Who does that? How did we know it would stick?

I think of that day and marvel that Chris and I were ever so young. That so many now gone were still alive: my parents, Chris’s parents, my sister Lucy, my best friend Pam. And Chris! How alive he was. How his heart rumbled inside his chest. The man stood so straight he almost fell backward. He hugged me so hard I almost cracked. He smiled with his mouth, his eyes, his whole sturdy person, rocking on his heels with the rhythm of delight.

I think of that day and swell with gratitude. Chris gave me so much. He gives me so much still, his gifts growing with love long past his death. He gave me our three beautiful children. His dear, kind sisters and brothers, their husbands and wives. My three fine nephews. My new great-niece, an angel born three weeks ago.

Chris gave me my home: Had I not married a reporter for the Times Union, I wouldn’t have moved to Albany. He gave me all of my life here. All of my friends and coworkers. All of my neighbors. He gave me the Adirondacks. Camping. Stewart’s Ice Cream. Downhill skiing, which I would never have tried without him.

He gave me the lingering effects of his green thumb. The apple tree at the front of my house. The gardens, front and back. The spider plants, upstairs and down.FullSizeRender

Most of all, he gave me his love and all its light. That lingers, too. He gave me faith in the long-term bond between two people. He gave me an understanding of love as a deep, enduring and sacramental fact, as a truth forged together but greater than the both of us, as something worth fighting for every minute — because the minutes, if we honored them properly, could amass into decades.

And so they did. Twenty years I had with my good, strong, loving, constant husband, a brilliant man whose giant heart roared with the joy of living. He died, but his gift goes on forever.

handy

hand

I had a little epiphany the other day. Someone was chit-chatting casually with my son, and in the course of this casual chit-chat asked him if Mom was “handy.” He confirmed that indeed Mom is.  When I heard this, I was tickled pink. I was BEYOND tickled pink. I was tickled rose sunsets and bubblegum-flamingos-in-pointe-shoes. I was tickled despite the fact that my late husband, who had worked in carpentry and construction for many years before switching to journalism, HATED HATED HATED the word “handy,” considering it an infantile reduction of his skills.

But I don’t deceive myself. I have no skills. When it comes to repairing things, jury-rigging things, piecing things together and persuading things to fit and function inside my house, I am exercising neither art nor aptitude. Instead I am exercising my inborn propensity for Repairman Avoidance. I am being the stubborn white-haired lady who might not believe she can fix a damn thing but is damn well going to try, anyway.

When the basement trap clogged and overflowed with toilet unmentionables, and I couldn’t reach the Sewage Dude immediately, I went down with a shovel and started to dig out. It was late at night, and it was disgusting. But you know what? As I shoveled and gagged and shoveled and gagged and shoveled and gagged and gagged, I felt a crazed pride welling within me, as in: Yee-haw! I am one sick motha! I can shovel shit! Yes, I can!

The next day, Sewage Dude arrived. Standing by as his finished the job, I engaged him in casual chit-chat.

Me: Soooooo. . . ummm. . . when my husband died, I wrote a book about it afterward called Figuring Shit Out.

Sewage Dude: Really.

Me: Yeah. And this would have been a great chapter.

(Sewage Dude laughs.)

Afterward, it occurred to me that shoveling shit was something my mother would have done — and might have done, for all I know. I think a lot about Mama, a tough, wise, loving lady whose stick-to-it-iveness carried the family after Daddy lost his short-term memory. Exercising her own inborn propensity for Repairman Avoidance, she fixed furniture, plumbing, windows. She painted the downstairs. She built a shower upstairs. When the cushions died, she took apart the living-room sofa and rebuilt it as a simple wood settee. She repaired hings, jury-rigged things, pieced things together and persuaded things to fit and function inside her  house.

I’d always admired this about her, but I’d always assumed her handiness was innate, not acquired. I assumed it was something she’d brought to her marriage that I didn’t bring to mine. But when my son called me handy, the revelation finally hit me: I was just like Mama! Mama was just like me! She hadn’t started out with a hammer in one small fist and a paint can in the other. Life had turned her into a jury-rigger and handy-woman, a stubborn white-haired lady who did what she could to patch things together. She she became what she needed to become. She fixed what broke. She figured shit out, and showed me the way.

 

 

 

that word again

baby fistI’ve been thinking about love in the last few days, itching and twitching with excitement as I awaited the arrival of a new and blessed human into the clan. She finally came, this great niece of mine with her mop of hair and splendid howling maw, and she’s perfect. She’s gorgeous, of course, but that’s not what I mean. I mean she’s perfect in the way that all babies are perfect, as an emblem and ambassador of all that we long for in this life.

She isn’t merely loved. She’s love embodied. I haven’t had a chance to meet her yet and hold her in my arms, but I already love her and know her as love. I already know that she’s a gift, not just to her parents and grandparents and uncles and aunts and great uncles and great aunts and cousins, but to the world. To everyone else. To all of us here, groping through the everyday with faith that it will lead us somewhere with light and meaning.

Love is a verb and an abstract noun. But it’s also a substance, a thing made tangible and real by living, touching and giving of one another — a thing that sparks to life in the arms of our beloved and grows with each new embrace. We rock our babies, and they become toddlers. We kiss our toddlers, and they become schoolchildren. We hug our schoolchildren, and they go on to high school, then college, then jobs, then marriage, then children and grandchildren of their own, making yet more love out of yet more love in an endless, fractal branching of fertility and hope.

My own three babies, no longer small, are the proof and stuff of love. So was my late husband, this new little girl’s Great Uncle Chris, who made our children with me. So was my late sister Lucy, whose death prompted us to have kids sooner than we’d planned. So are all we love who leave too soon, who cease to be present in this world but never cease to be real, because love never ceases to be real. How could it?

This is the lesson in every baby: that nothing, nothing, nothing is more real than love. Not time. Not loss and pain. Not life itself. That first holy moment cradling a child lasts forever. It is forever. People call parental love unconditional, but it’s more than love without condition; it’s love without end. All love is. All babies are, this one included. She’s love, and she’s loved. And all is right with the world.

the voice i need

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Every now and then, when I’m desperate to hear the voice of someone who knows me and loves me enough to give me the shit I so desperately need, I call my brother Danny. And he swears at me.

He provided this service earlier this week. I was navel-gazing and perseverating in THE worst possible way, fretting over various Conversations with various People who said various Things expressing various forms of Dissatisfaction and passing various forms of Judgment on me that, okay, I shouldn’t have internalized, because I  knew deep down that these same Things were fundamentally and unequivocally Wrong. But I’m fundamentally and unequivocally human, so I internalized every last Thing and filed it away for safekeeping. The other day, I retrieved those Things. I replayed them in my tired little brain, then shrugged into a hairshirt and started beating myself with a stick, preparing for A) A life of misery and loneliness; B) Byzantine sainthood; or C) Both, and doesn’t that sound like fun!

I was in the throes of such self-flagellation when it hit me: I’d better call Danny so he can tell me to shut the eff up. And I did. I called him. He answered, bless his soul. I gave him the low-down on the Things I had internalized, on my overwrought psyche and on my subsequent plan to remove myself to a cave in the desert of Osrhoene for a life of ascetic reflection and self-denial. It’ll be great! I’ll take a vow of silence and live on beetles!, I told him, or something along those lines. And Danny, interrupting me, said:

“NOW WAY! EFF YOU, AMES! NO! NO! NO! NO WAY! NO!”

Then he said it again.

“NO! NO! EFF YOU, AMY! NO WAY! NO WAY! NO! NO! NO! NO!”

And again.

“NO WAY! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! EFF YOU! NO!”

At this point, I was laughing so hard I could barely hear him, but he kept going.

“NO! NO! NO! NO WAY! NO! EFF YOU, AMY! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! EFF YOU! EFF YOU! NO! NO WAY!”

And so on. He kept yelling at me. I kept laughing. By the end of this loving tirade I was shedding tears of joy and relief, because my brother had said exactly what I needed to hear at the exact moment I needed to hear it. He then went on to say more things I needed to hear, compassionate things, insightful things, uplifting and affirming things, things so different from the Things I’d heard before and have had such a hard time forgetting.  I thanked him for that, and for making me laugh.

What struck me, both in the midst of this conversation and in the days afterward, was just how necessary it is — for all of us, in this beautiful mess of a world — to have people in our lives who’ll yell at us when we most need it. We need people to shake us from our funks and give us shit. We need voices noisy enough to shout us down with love. I have those voices in my life, the voices of relatives and friends who’ll say what has to be said and say it with frankness and force. I know where to turn for what I need. The other day, I needed EFF YOUs and NO NO NO NO NOs, so I turned to Danny. He gave me the love I needed, and it was loud as hell. Thank you, brother.

Barry Manilow, meet my sister Betsy


Barry, meet your biggest fan: my sister Betsy. She’s developmentally disabled, but there is nothing incomplete about her. She is beautiful and wise and whole, full of insight and joy, compassion for all and passion for all that she loves: her family; butterflies; the color purple; jigsaw puzzles; word searches; rocks; animals; nature shows; and you, you, you.

She first fell in love with you at age 6, maybe 7. It might have been “Could It Be Magic.” Whatever the song, “I fell in love with him and became his fan immediately.” Aside from owning, and memorizing, every CD you ever recorded, she has books, posters, photos, you name it.

I asked her what she loves so much about her Barry. Her reply:

“I like the way he sings, and I think he is handsome. I like everything about him. I like his eyes, nose, and hair. I like the way he dresses — very fancy clothes. I love the way he plays piano. I like it when he sings with the piano, and when he does not. . . . His music makes me happy and cheers me up when I am sad. I think he is sexy—I was disappointed when he got married, as I dreamed he would marry me.”

If you want to know just how happy you make her, watch the video.

Betsy is 49 and works at a bakery. She hasn’t been my sister the whole time (I’m a latecomer to the family), but I could not love her more. I could not admire her more. Betsy is the person I want to be: caring, honest, accepting, warm, with a delight in everyday pleasures and a willingness to take things as they come. She has a shy smile, a gutsy laugh and a great sense of humor.

In short, you need to know her. Why?

1) It would make her life.
2) It would make her life.
3) Everyone should know Betsy. She’s one of the sweetest, dearest, kindest, purest souls to ever walk the earth. To be with her is to be happy, because her loving nature and joy in living are both infectious.
4) It would make her life.

“I do love him to death, for sure,” she told me, adding: “I would like to meet Barry Manilow, if you can do that, Amy.”

So Barry, meet Betsy. If this finds you – if enough people share this, snagging your attention – then please contact me, and I’ll put you in touch with her.

You won’t regret it, I promise. It would make your life, too.

 

time to love

My younger daughter turned 20 in Australia today. Tomorrow she turns 20 here, which, as she pointed out to me at 9:30 this morning (or around 1:30 tomorrow morning her time), is the more accurate marker. But it’s Valentine’s Day in Sydney right now, which means my middle child has just escaped her teens by some reckoning or other. How beautiful and strange. But isn’t that life? And isn’t that love? mama and daddy older

I learned about love from my parents. I’ve written before about my mother’s commitment to my father, whose many years of dementia — probably brain damage — following his suicide attempt in 1974 meant that he wasn’t all there. No short-term memory, no way to help support the family, nothing to give besides his innate loving-kindness and his beaming, charming warmth. He was a loving presence, and that was it. That’s all he had. That’s all Mama required of him. She accepted it, and gave her love back with fidelity and strength.

I learned about love from my sister, who loved with all of her being. As broken as she was, as tortured by the unremitting urge to kill herself, she beamed a light around her that splashed and awakened joy. Anything she had to give, she gave. Everything she could reveal, she did. She was transparent in her compassion, and in her pain. It was all there, all out in the open, all part of who she was and how she hurt and loved. Nothing was hidden by her, or from her; she saw all. She saw inside my own brokenness and loved me, accepted me, still.

I learned from Lucy that love can’t fix anyone. All it can do is accept and give. We love not despite our brokenness, but because of it, — because we’re all broken, because we all wish we weren’t, because we all long to warm and be warmed, hold and be held. Because we have no other choice. Until we reach perfection in this life — and when will that be? — we need to make peace with each other, and ourselves.

I learned about love from my three children, who showed me why I’m alive. Giving birth means satisfying, finally, the age-old quest for meaning in this world: I no longer wonder why I was put here. It’s obvious. To bring them into being. To love them into adults. To help them as they grow. Brokenness, mine or theirs, is moot in the face of such a mission. Parental love is a window into God’s love, for it’s love without judgment, condition, fear of divorce or demand for reciprocity.

I learned about love from my late husband — who gave and gave and loved and loved until his brokenness stopped him — and from all who’ve blessed my life, friends, family, beloveds in every sense, everyone who’s entered my orbit and filled it with their gifts and their loving, broken selves. I haven’t met anyone yet who isn’t broken somehow. I haven’t met anyone who doesn’t love regardless.

We all are. We all do. It’s Valentine’s Day in Australia. Love.

flying

So today I put my younger daughter onto yet another plane for yet another great adventure — this one half-way around the world. We said goodbye at security, hugging, hugging, hugging, then hugged once more before she handed her passport and boarding pass to the agent. Then she slowly progressed through security, turning and waving, turning and waving, turning and waving. I worked hard not to break down in tears, and I succeeded.

I’ve written before about the durable, flexible umbilical cord that links me forever to my children. It’s a bond I can barely understand, much less describe. Right now, that red, ropy tether is stretched somewhere over the Pacific. I know it won’t snap. It’s made of tough stuff, supple and stubborn as it was when it fed her in the womb. My womb. The nest that hatched three children — weird, when you think about it — and dropped them into the world. Plop! Plop! Plop! A soft landing for each of them, straight into those striped white swaddling blankets found in every hospital.

I look at them now with wonder and gratitude: wonder that I had something to do with them; gratitude to God, their late dad and the mystical happenstance of timing for bringing them into my life. Had they been conceived one second earlier or one second later, they’d be different people: that, too, is weird when you think about it. Weirder still when I remind myself, as I often do, that my sister’s suicide in 1992 first inspired me to get pregnant. If she hadn’t died, Chris and I might have postponed baby-making for another couple years, and who knows which babies might have popped out then? Weird weird weird. When it happened, and she downed all those pills in her bedroom, I was clobbered by grief and confused by a universe that would snatch such a loving soul so soon. I wanted to fill it with another. It was that simple. I wanted someone new to love, some new life to cherish in the contorted face of death. This was a primal urge: procreate, woman! How better to shake my fist at the reaper than to usher in new life?plane view

And so I did, and there they are: my three enduring gifts. Some days, at my lowest, I wonder if I’m serving God as I’m supposed to, if I’m living and loving as I’m called to. I wonder about my failures as a human being, my woundedness, the way I strive but stumble through this world. I am not perfect. I try and fail, I love and lose, I grapple with my own pain in ways that end up hurting others. But when I look at my beautiful children, and I remember their beautiful father — so strong and passionate and compassionate and constant and loving and giving and good — I realize I did something right. Or something right happened to me.

Waving goodbye to my intrepid middle kid this morning, I said thanks to God and the whims of fate that timed my children perfectly. They are my three miracles. I’m grateful for them, and for everyone else I’ve been blessed to love in this world. For love has its own logic. Love has its own laws. At this moment, my love defies gravity and carries my daughter across the ocean to the vast unknown. I’m with her and I’m here, I’m earthbound and I’m flying, I’m nervous and I’m joyous all the same. Weird.

 

 

the things my father taught me

DADDY
Frustrated beyond belief by a headache at work a couple weeks back, I pushed away from my desk and bellowed: MADONNA SANTA GIUSEPP’!!! Which doesn’t happen all that often. At least not at work. Not that loudly, anyway. And not within earshot of colleagues, who jointly turned in their seats to see who had issued the vociferous Mediterranean appeal to the Holy Mother and Saint Joseph.

My father issued this same noisy petition quite a lot during my childhood, and it’s ALMOST the only bit of Neapolitan I ever learned. ALMOST. I also know how to say “Shut up and start eating” AND “You are a tough, dry turd that someone had a hard time voiding,” although I’m happy to report that I have never uttered either in the Times Union newsroom. (And for the record, my father never uttered either to me.)

My dad was Eye-Talian. That’s how bigots of yore pronounced the word in polite company, or at any rate when they wanted to express distrust or disgust without resorting to “guinea” or “wop.” Eye. Talian. Always with a beat between the syllables. As a kid I found this odd, since no one I knew called the country of origin Eye-Taly, and I also found it odd that my American-born Daddy would take any heat from anyone for being, I dunno, FOREIGN. Yes, he was eccentric. And huuuuuugely expressive and impassioned and never exactly quiet. But alien? Not to me.

True, he’d grown up in Manhattan’s Little Italy, and yes, his first language was Neapolitan, but he passionately loved his country of birth and came to embody its dream. He worked hard, went to college, attended grad school, became a music critic, wrote books, studied etymology and linguistics, translated “The Divine Comedy” (though I suppose that’s about as Eye-Talian as literature gets) and befriended the likes of Eugene Ormandy. He was a good citizen! He voted in every election! He ate yogurt! He had a crush on Mary Tyler Moore!

He also tore his calf rushing to rescue a neighbor from a fire, and years later, he rescued a little girl from drowning. He once talked two men out of a knife fight on the subway (“brothers! brothers!”), once talked a mugger out of stealing his watch (“My late mother gave me that! Are you sure you want to take it? Won’t you feel terrible afterward?”) and, during World War II, got into an argument with a fascist barber while the man held a straight-edge to his neck. That’s the sort of Eye-Talian he was. One who saved lives, opposed violence — he gave up boxing after his buddy went punch drunk — and hated Mussolini.

Daddy died 23 years ago, but the gifts he gave me still endure: love of music, love of language, love of peace. I got those from him. Those, and the reflexive Southern-Italian blurt-outs invoking the Holy Family, which, okay, are just a tad blasphemous, especially when Jesus gets tossed into the mix (MADONNA SANTA GIUSEPP’ GESU!!).

If only I’d learned a little more of my father’s native tongue. Madonn’, I wish I had.

my sister’s voice

lucy coma typeface

You never really lose the people you love. When my sister Lucy killed herself in a psych-med overdose at the age of 31 in 1992, I feared forgetting her. I needn’t have worried. She was unforgettable, the most complete human being I’ve ever known: her kindness matched her brilliance matched her humor. She was my big sister. I was the “twerp,” her kid sister Aiminolde, the less-gifted one, the klutzier one, the one always struggling to find her place in that family of geniuses. She understood my many foibles, and she never treated me with anything but enveloping compassion and hilarious wit. Despite her intellect, which whizzed her through tests and off to Harvard, I never felt stupid around her. I only felt loved.

I knew I would never stop missing Lucy or sensing her near me. I knew I would always know her and call her my sister. But I also knew I had limits, that I couldn’t bring myself to pore over all the sheafs of notes she’d left behind detailing years and years of depression, hallucinations, suicidality, hospitalizations (13 or 14), medications (dozens) and misdiagnoses (countless) that led, finally, to the correct one: Temporal Lobe Epilepsy, a complex neurological disorder compounded by severe psychological fallout.

Lucy was always writing — hypergraphia often goes hand-in-hand with TLE — and churned out poetry, timelines, essays and meticulous accounts of her life and illness. I was aware she’d been working on an autobiography when she died, but I had no urge to track it down and read that or anything else she’d written. The thought of diving headfirst into her pain terrified me as much as the reality of living without her. Someday, maybe, I’d be strong enough and removed enough to go there. Just not yet. Not when my own pain was fresh.

Twenty-three years later, I felt ready. Why did it take me so long? Grief is strange. My own became stranger when I lost my father two months after losing Lucy, when I lost my mother two years after that. Then life took over; there were babies to raise, jobs to do, my own books to write. Near the end of that stretch I lost my husband, my second mother and my best friend, and each loss dredged up the pain of old ones.

My sister was present in these cyclical bouts of grieving, just as she was present in every moment of joy after her death: the births of my children were attended by their Aunt Lucy, whose love resides in my heart and warms theirs, too. They know her through me. They know my parents through me, the ad hoc preserver and channeler of memory. That’s what the Albany Med chaplain promised me, that day when Mama lay dying and I sat in the chapel weeping.

I wrote my first memoir for just that reason.  Still, even as I wrote it, I could not bring myself to dig deep into Lucy’s papers. I got as far as a list of her medications and a description of her seizure-induced hallucinations, and that was it.

Then, a few weeks ago, I started reorganizing the attic storage space, and I found a big cardboard box of Lucy-centric materials. Since then I’ve been poking through it, gingerly at first, more boldly as I dipped in and read and found myself crying, yes, but also grateful to reconnect with this beautiful, tortured, impossibly good creature that I was blessed to call my sister.

The first major piece of writing that startled and moved me was a handwritten autobiography that she produced during one of her numerous, unsuccessful stays at McLean, the leafy and collegiate-looking psych hospital outside Boston. The second discovery, which I happened across just yesterday, is the first few typewritten chapters of her book. She opens with a poem (“. . . this twisted life / why has it been given to me”) and then moves on to describe, with breathtaking honesty and insight, her emergence from a coma after her first suicide attempt in 1990:

I don’t remember going into it; the last thing I remember is Mama screaming to the woman, “No, she’s blacking out already; don’t you see it’s too late for her to vomit?”

I had never read this before. On delving further into Chapter 1, I learned other things that Lucy and Mama had never told me: that she exhibited little neural activity; that the doctors predicted she’d be brain-dead; that she announced mid-coma, “I have asthma” and “I have to pee”; that she’d forgotten she’d tried to kill herself but felt, drifting in and out of nightmares, that she had made a wrong choice.

I cried and read and cried and read and cried and cried and cried. Of course I wondered, as I read, whether Lucy felt this same, floating regret in her last moments in a fetal position two years later. Of course I wondered, as I always do, whether my husband had split-second flashes of remorse on his descent from a roof in 2011. I know my father regretted his suicide attempt in 1974; I found evidence of that in another attic find, though I haven’t found a firsthand account of his own coma.

But mainly, I read Lucy’s narrative with relief, rejoicing to hear again the quirky, radiant soprano that always spoke so gracefully of wanting to live while wanting to die. No one tried harder to make it through this mortal life. She documented that struggle with a transparency, a crystalline brightness, that makes me love and miss her even more.lucy

It’s all so Lucy. She’s all so there. She’s doing what she always did, saying truths that I need to hear, however belatedly, with uncompromising candor and love. And patience: She waited all this time to tell me. For more than two decades, her voice sat mute in a box in my attic, biding time while that fumbling twerp of a sister finally got around to listening.

I’m going to do something with this. I have no idea what. I have no idea where the other chapters are, or if there even are others; probably there were, at one point, but they’re long gone now thanks to my own negligence and fear.

But I’ll keep looking. I’ll keep reading. Lucy’s voice has a story to tell, and I plan to listen, preserve and channel.

i found it

mine, all mine!

mine, all mine!

One of our longstanding Easter traditions is the egg hunt. This is true of many families with children. Only problem is, I no longer have children in the sense of having “children,” i.e., beings of great youth, smallness, inexperience and pliability in the face of random parental dictates. I still have children in the sense of having self-ambulatory, independent offspring, two of them recognized by the state as adults, but I no longer have the sort that holds still for diapering.

Anyway. The egg hunt. My youngest is now 14, and I wasn’t sure he’d be up for the usual race around the brown grass and bushes in our back yard, but I didn’t want to disappoint the fellow, either. I wanted to give him the option. So the day before Easter I bought those cheapo plastic eggs and the only remaining seasonal bagged candy left on the shelves, i.e., little malted milk balls and tiny ovoid butterfingers.

Easter day, while I was cooking and cleaning and screaming and flinging cast iron pans around the kitchen, I asked my daughter Jeanne to fill the aforementioned eggs with the aforementioned candy. She’s an adult, so I knew she was capable of this complex task. And not only was she capable, she came back to me about 10 minutes later with a startling innovation: “Mom,” she said, “this year, let’s do an egg hunt for the grown-ups.” She pointed out, and wisely so, that her dutiful teenage brother probably didn’t want to search for eggs while 13 other people watched. “He’s too old for that. So we’ll hide them. You guys can hunt for them,” and by “you guys” she meant all available relatives who fall within the boomer demographic and had not taken part in an actual, valid, run-around-the-lawn Easter-egg hunt for several parched decades of sad paschal deprivation.

When the time came, the grown-ups were beckoned into the back yard, front yard, street and sidewalk, where my clever young progeny had squirreled away shiny plastic vessels in devilishly sneaky hidey-holes. I’ve always been terrible at such things and only found two eggs, both thanks to my son and his theatrically resonant throat-clearing. (“MOM. AHEM. AHEM,” he said, bouncing on the cracked plastic base of a basketball hoop. “MOM! MOM! AHEM! MOOOOM!” At that third AHEM and fourth MOM, I noticed the egg within.)

The candy, once I cracked it open and sampled it, was awful. But the real pleasure lay in watching everyone scatter across the grass and the pavement, peeking under bike helmets, poking noses gingerly in bushes, all of us old farts behaving for all the world like the eager children we once were — and, I guess, still are. My three offspring followed us around, laughing at the spectacle of middle-aged hunters and huntresses in pursuit of precious booty. At the end we clutched our plunder to our chests, grinning. We’d found it. The kids had given us the freedom to be kids again.