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WOSTER: Easter's 'strange business' begins

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I don't know the age of the spare refrigerator in our basement, but if you looked at reruns of some of the television sitcoms about families from the early 1970s, you'd surely recognize both the style and the lime-green color of our appliance.

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The doors don't seal quite as firmly as they did when it was new, and the motor labors with groans and grunts when it's trying to cool heavy loads. Still, it remains a serviceable thing. Without a doubt, we owe it more than it owes us at this point in our relationship.

I heard the motor working away the other evening as I walked down the stairs to get a soda after work. I opened the door and came face-to-face with a wall of egg cartons. Well, sure, here it was Easter Week, and here were the dozens of hard-cooked eggs just waiting for kids and grandkids to come home so we could break out the dyes and wax pencils and stencils and stickers.

Later today, everyone who is home for Easter will gather around the big dining room table and color eggs for the Sunday morning hunt. The polished oak surface of the table will be covered with oil cloths and other towels and drapes. Cups of warm, dye-colored water will be strategically located for easy dunking of eggs. For a long, long while, the family will concentrate on the strange business of taking perfectly good, farm-fresh eggs and giving them all manner of colors, designs and slogans.

Members of the family take to the task with varying degrees of enthusiasm, once they have been convinced that, yes, again this year we're all going to take part in the ritual. The grandkids get a kick out it, for the most part. Last year the 4-year-old performed with gusto, coloring as many eggs as she could reach and spreading a little color on her hands and arms, the table cloths and a few other fixtures in the dining room. The older granddaughters showed a high level of creativity in use of color and patterns.

I tend to look on the process a lot like the old Woster custom of oyster stew on Christmas Eve. It isn't my favorite thing in the world, but it's going to happen, year after year. (I should say that several years ago we quit serving oyster stew on Christmas Eve and went to a meal of soups and beef stews. Old traditions can end and new ones take their place. It just isn't quick or easy. It hasn't come to the Easter tradition.)

I rather enjoy watching the egg coloring. That seems to be fine with everyone. It means more eggs for the more enthusiastic members of the family to decorate, leaning close to their work as they apply stencils or write names in wax pencil, squinting as they concentrate on making each letter or symbol just right, sighing when, as always happens a time or two during the afternoon, a sharp crack means someone put too much pressure on a shell. The offender shrugs, the others at the table smile, and the work continues.

When I looked briefly into the basement refrigerator the other evening, it seemed there were more eggs than usual.

Nancy and I sometimes disagree on how many eggs is the proper number. I tend to think a dozen. She's partial to a larger number.

This year, I haven't asked how many eggs we have. After I opened and closed the refrigerator door, my mind retained an image of the stack of cartons. I couldn't swear to it if I were a witness in court, but the number nine keeps appearing in the mental image. Nine cartons of eggs? Seriously?

Tell me. If you opened your refrigerator and thought you saw nine cartons of eggs, would you inquire further? Or would you close the door and go off to a quiet corner and read?

At some point, after the colored eggs have been hidden by the older folks this evening and discovered by the youngest grandchild early tomorrow, I definitely will want to know exactly how many of those things got scattered around my house.

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