Robert Kirby: The evolution of Easter expense

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Robert Kirby

Watching my youngest granddaughter hunt Easter eggs inside on Sunday, I was struck in the face by a plastic egg. I was also struck by how much Easter has changed since my egg-hunting days.

I don’t remember when my own family stopped coloring eggs for Easter — probably the last time one of our kids spilled dye on the carpet or around the time we stopped using real eggs.

This will offend Easter traditionalists, who are rapidly dwindling in number. It won’t be long before only handfuls remember the old ways of boiling and coloring actual eggs to commemorate the resurrection of a god.

Coloring eggs was a big deal when I was a kid. Mom would boil the eggs, and the Old Man would mix the dye with water. As soon as the eggs had cooled, we gathered around the table and made them ready for the next day’s hunt.

Before going to bed, we would leave the eggs in a basket for the Easter Bunny to hide during the night.

It was the Old Man who first deviated from tradition. Using a wax candle, he wrote various cash awards on uncolored eggs. After being dipped in the dye, the bounty for a particular egg would reveal itself.

There were 5 cent, 10 cent and 25 cent eggs. Keep in mind that this was back when coins were (except for nickels) actually made mostly of silver and therefore worth something.

It was possible to make nearly a buck hunting eggs. That was a lot of money to a 9-year-old and beat the hell out of just an egg.

Eggs became problematic when I discovered the hilarity of coloring raw eggs and slipping them into the basket to be hidden with the rest.

I stopped when the trick egg earned me an Easter butt-beating from the Old Man, who went for a late-night snack and cracked it on his own head.

After I got married, our kids colored boiled eggs until the Easter when our oldest daughter rehid her eggs in the top of her closet and forgot about them. Took us more than a month to track down the source of the stench.

It was around that time we switched to plastic eggs. They were more convenient and versatile. In addition to candy, spare change and IOU notes absolving them of certain chores for a few days, the eggs could be reused.

Through the years, we kept the traditions that made sense with our grandchildren — chocolate rabbits the size of horses, jelly beans, hiding the eggs. But the cash prizes had evolved into real money. Spare change didn’t cut it anymore.

On Sunday, our youngest granddaughter hunted the eggs by herself. Due to her age, we stuck with just candy and small toys.

Proof that 6-year-old Ada wanted family traditions honored came when she climbed into my lap while chewing candy. She forlornly showed me an empty plastic egg and expressed her disappointment.

“Papa, isn’t there ’posed to be 5 dollars in here?”

Robert Kirby is The Salt Lake Tribune’s humor columnist. Follow Kirby on Facebook.