Yesterday I slipped two Lindt chocolate bunnies into my shopping basket and thought of how much Easter has changed now that my girls are teenagers. The first casualty was the early-morning Easter egg hunt, which thrilled them to the core when they were little. I can still remember Elder Daughter shrieking, “The Easter Bunny! He came! He came!” when she spied the foil-covered eggs, while her jammie-clad little sister toddled unsteadily from room to room, clutching fistfuls of chocolate and squealing with delight..
Chef Boyardee and I started tweaking our family traditions when we moved to Singapore. We knew it was probably impossible to replicate them exactly, and we were okay with that. Our goal was to do the best we could with the tools we had — an approach that worked out surprisingly well.
The most notable difference at Easter was the scaled-down family dinner: the girls missed the familiar comforts of celebrating the special day with their loved ones. (I did too, of course, but what I really missed was stuffing my face with turkey. The big bird was hard to find in Singapore — and wickedly expensive — but the main reason we passed was our dollhouse-sized oven, which was woefully inadequate for cooking anything bigger than a chicken leg.)
When it comes to expat Easters, as with many things in life, the first one was the hardest. After four months in Singapore, we’d more or less adjusted to the need for constant adjustments, and had settled into our new life quite nicely. Then the island was hit hard by the SARS outbreak, and uncertainty took on a whole new dimension. Schools were closed, fresh vegetables were scarce, and overnight, surgical masks became the new must-have accessory.
In the midst of this craziness, the Foleys took a holiday. I impressed myself by remembering to buy Easter eggs before we left, and I congratulated myself for cleverly hiding them in the empty house of a friend who was travelling. We spent several blissful days in Phuket, but back home, as the taxi pulled into our driveway, Younger Daughter suddenly burst into tears. “Mommy,” she hiccupped, “tomorrow is Easter. But how will the Easter Bunny know where to find us? He doesn’t know we moved to Singapore.”
Oh, crap. Easter Bunny anxiety was something that hadn’t come up during our predeparture training sessions. No time to think about that now, though; I immediately switched to damage control mode. “Of course he does, Silly,” I said with a cheerfulness I didn’t feel. “I sent him a change-of-address card just before we moved.”
“Santa too?” she asked tremulously.
“Santa too,” I replied.
She brightened up immediately, and happily went off to bed with visions of tooth decay chocolate dancing in her head.
All’s well that ends well, right? Except it almost didn’t. In the wee hours of the morning, I realized the goodies, which were supposed to be hidden all over my house, were still in their perfect hiding place. I rolled out of bed and ran barefoot to my friend’s house, and managed to fling a few handfuls of eggs around the living room just seconds before the girls came downstairs, rubbing the sleep from their eyes.
“The Easter Bunny!” Younger Daughter shrieked. “He came! He came!”
That was the last time the Easter Bunny came to our house; by the time egg hunt season rolled around the following year, Younger Daughter had joined the ranks of the non-believers. But I’ll never forget the joy on her face when she saw that expat life didn’t mean the end of everything she held dear. Even when you move far, far away, the Easter Bunny comes. And Santa too.