It was for sure the prize egg and I, and I alone, had found it. No one else had dared venture down into the stream bed to search among the tangle of branches from downed trees and along the marsh and among the weeds where mud squeezed over the shoe tops.
But I did.
It was a sign of things to come.
Where I come from and the times in which I lived a baloney sandwich, a small bag of chips, a can of soda pop all in a brown paper sack and I was off on the daily adventure.
Sometimes, when the creek was high and it had flooded the woods down behind our house – a swamp created by a dam of logs and other debris that clogged the outlet which hellacious tangle I swear we neighborhood boys had nothing to do with – we’d push off on our raft we’d constructed of logs and lumber from the neighbor’s shed which quite obviously he didn’t need anyway although later the policeman said in fact he did.
One time when my friends couldn’t come out and play – they were on restriction – I agreed, very reluctantly, to allowing my older sister to join me in the aforementioned wooded pasture. It wasn’t long before we found ourselves trapped in a tree up which we had climbed and together sat there on the branch screaming until help arrived. She had convinced me that something – still today we cannot agree on what it was – had been following us and so there we were, perched like little lost waifs in the deep dark woods, scared out of our wits by a creature of my sister’s imagination.
When the creek wasn’t high, and my sister had long-since been relegated by me to whatever it is little girls normally do, our local gang of Tom Sawyers rendezvoused at the park which at that time was a most wonderful, magical place.
Now, today, it’s a well-manicured, antiseptic, groomed field where every tree is exposed, the hiding places nonexistent, the forts demolished, the underbrush bulldozed.
But there was a stretch a long, long time ago – pre-incorporation but post-ice-age – when dinosaurs of our creation still roamed the well-worn narrow foot trails – there wasn’t room for dirt bikes – trails which crisscrossed like spider webs below blackberry vines grown so high overhead they blocked out the sun but still allowed room for all manner of monsters to lurk unseen.
What adventures we had, what battles were won, what flags were captured, what scratches and bruises – scars borne and shown proudly – and stories of slain dragons were told and retold and, perhaps, embellished upon when well after dark mom and dad finally fetched me and reminded (gently scolded) – after they’d patiently listened to my fine flashing sword duels – of when it was, exactly, I was to have reported for duty at the dinner table.
And to think it all began with an Easter egg hunt.
Not, certainly not, in all the excitement of spying what was most certainly THE prize egg did I ever imagine the unlikeliest of outcomes that in my grubby little hand did I not in fact possess what would be exchanged for my choice of bicycles: first prize.
There was, after all, no egg as big as mine. Not even close.
It’s true as I later grudgingly admitted as did almost immediately the judges and parents – both my parents and many other parents who gathered ‘round looking down at the thing – that THIS egg, MY egg, my only egg – did not indeed have much of any resemblance to a prize egg.
Although it was very, in my opinion, prize-worthy large, it wasn’t bright pink or purple, nor was it gold like the prize egg I suppose is supposed to be. It was, in fact, rather colorless. Pale. Aged. And they said it smelled. Bad.
Still, I think I found it and no one else did because – as egg-hunters go – I was a bit smarter than the rest of the five-year olds.
The others, in their Sunday best, most clutching plastic-flower-adorned baskets – even the boys – stooped in a sprinter’s stance at the starting line.
The elbowing parents assumed that posture but as I remember the scene the kids were basically clueless. Pointing out the obvious – millions and millions of brightly colored eggs within a mere yard or so – moms gestured and pointed, pointed and gestured, until what to do and where to go and why they were even there froze most children into a rather terror-stricken confusion.
When the shotgun (ok, shout) sounded, most were trampled within a few feet of the starting line – pushed perhaps by parents who egged-them onto the battlefield to grab anything and everything before that fat kid with the glasses did.
But this was my battlefield. For this I was raised. I would take the hill or, in this case, the creek bed. There would be no prisoners.
Since when is a prize egg hidden in plain sight?
I headed straight for the woods, stepping on many land mines along the way and crossed through and over the demilitarized zone – a brave venture as I look back upon it that required scooting under the yellow ‘Do Not Cross’ warning tape which for some purpose had been stretched earlier by the very same adults who would later serve as judges.
We knew this because our family had arrived early to claim, for me, a place on the front lines.
A duck egg? Maybe a goose egg. Whatever. All were most certainly in agreement that it was a most very large egg. And one that had been there evidently a long, long time.
No it was not, to everyone but me, a prize egg.
And no, we could not bring it home.
But did any other kid find such an egg?
Nope. Just me.