I was only half-listening to the conversation in the backseat of the car, until I heard my daughter, Amelia, then age 9, say the words "egg hunt."
"I can't wait to see what kind of egg hunt the Easter Bunny is going to do this year!" I clenched the steering wheel harder.
My husband, Michael, and I had long enjoyed setting up Easter hunts for Amelia (now 14) and her brother, Oliver, who is five years younger. The age difference made it challenging, though. When she was younger, Amelia would be scooping up jelly beans and plucking chocolate bunnies off the shelves while Oliver stood in the middle of the living room sobbing that he couldn't find anything. One Easter, we even took a suggestion from a FamilyFun issue and created complicated string mazes leading to their baskets, hoping to slow Amelia down. She stood outside the webs' strands, traced a path with her eyes, and, incredibly, found her basket in less than two minutes, then turned around and found Oliver's basket, too.
For a few years, Easter morning seemed to bring more conflict than happiness. I longed to find a way for the kids to truly enjoy it -- and to free me from having to teach lessons about fairness before my morning coffee had kicked in.
Fortunately, five Easters ago, the Bunny came up with a very simple solution.
As dawn broke, the kids bounded into our room to wake us, ready to hunt. I kept them there, chatting about favorite goodies of Easter baskets past, while Michael went to start the coffee. After a few minutes, he came back into the room to announce that he'd found the kids' Easter baskets -- empty -- and a note:
A fun little twist (Since you love one another) Fill your basket for Sister And you, for your brother.
It was signed "EB." I asked the kids, "Well, what do you think it means?"
"That if you see something that the other person likes, you should let them find it," said Amelia hopefully. That was a great idea by itself, but I was fishing for something even more generous.
"Fill your basket for Sister and you, for your brother," I read again. "I think it means that whatever you put in your basket, you're going to give to Oliver. Oliver will fill up his basket with things, then give them to you."
"Couldn't we just do it my way?" pleaded my daughter. "Please, Amelia," said her brother. "It will be really fun."
It was hard for her, but she nodded her head, and the hunt began. At first glance, the living room looked empty of goodies, but Oliver, miraculously, found the first hidden treat. "I found you a chocolate rabbit, Amelia!" He put it in his basket. Amelia then noticed some animal-shaped rubber bands dangling from the leaves of a plant, a trendy favorite. Oliver came over to investigate. "Amelia, you always love these rubber bands!"
He put some of them in his basket. "I'm getting you lots of good stuff," he remarked proudly before wandering off to find her more treasures.
Amelia looked down at her brother's empty basket and then looked around the room. It was clear that she was looking at her surroundings with new eyes. She found Lego figures, tiny cars, and a trove of Swedish Fish, and tucked them into her basket.
The hunt continued like that, happy and tear-free, as they combed through the rooms together, working to build each other the "best Easter baskets ever." Meanwhile, Michael and I sat on the couch with our coffee, and toasted the ingenuity of the Easter Bunny.
Heather Henderson and her family are always on the lookout for goodies in their hometown of Sanford, Florida.