Skip to main content

The Shipwreck Rose: My Peeps

Thu, 03/30/2023 - 09:42

Easter season comes bounding in, to the bouncy tune of Al Jolson singing “When the Red, Red Robin Comes Bob-Bob-Bobbin’ Along,” a number-one hit in the year 1926 and possibly the most cheerful number ever to top the charts. The song starts out a bit rain-darkened and moody (the first verse is February) but grows in sunshine with every verse (arriving in April).

I’m more than a little susceptible to seasonal affective disorder, but my outlook brightens as soon as the big hand on the grandfather clock is wound forward an hour on daylight saving time and the afternoons begin to lengthen; add in my morning double espresso, and, indeed, I tend to get a bit manicky, sitting in my kitchen with a vaseful of ridiculously yellow daffodils at my elbow, on a late-March morning. Every line of “Red, Red Robin” ends with an exclamation mark:


Wake up, wake up, you sleepyheads!

Get up, get up, get out of bed!

Cheer up, cheer up, the sun is red!

Live, love, laugh, and be happy!


Spring has sprung and I have a pep in my step and Peeps in a shopping bag in the hall. I’m avoiding my work like a school truant, listening to Al Jolson, and shopping for assorted Easter eggs on a website called the British Food Shop. When I was small, my mother picked up a certain kind of egg-shape confection that I haven’t seen since the early 1980s, and I’d really like to find them again. She bought these candy novelties in Little Italy, I seem to recall, after her weekly operatic-singing lesson in Manhattan, to which she went because all mothers need something to do other than mothering; they looked exactly like white hen’s eggs, hollow inside, a thin layer of milk chocolate covered by a hard, white shell of whatever the stuff is that coats Jordan Almonds. And fondly do I remember the year my mom filled my basket with a gigantic, eight-pound chocolate rabbit made at the Candy Kitchen in Bridgehampton, a solid-chocolate monster that came up to my waist when stood on the floor before having his ears gnawed off.

That rabbit was so big that year that I never finished him off, but worked on his feet and head — chewing away at top and bottom — like a beaver sharpening either end of a log.

No one in this household actually cares much for holidays, or holiday candies, except me, truth be told. My son doesn’t favor candy at all. His major food groups are cheddar cheese and ground beef. He’d prefer an Easter basket filled with burritos, boxed macaroni, and Golden Krust Jamaican beef patties. My daughter, on the other hand, does crave sugar, especially gummies, and has been known to leave Sour Patch Kids wrappers under her bed and even tumbled into her duvet — a strange but natural behavior during the adolescent phase of American girlhood, it seems, if my informal surveying of other girl-parents is correct, this feathering of the nest with castoff candy wrappers — but she barely will deign to eat chocolate. My children barely tolerate chocolate!

Santa and the Easter Bunny continue to bring chocolate, despite the kids’ indifference and despite their inexorable and successful advance out of childhood. I’ve assailed them with holiday-chocolate novelties, despite their evident lack of real delight, their entire lives and I’m not quite prepared to stop just yet. (I’m not sure if it’s a mom-failing or a mom-triumph that they are capable of ignoring the rabbits, chickens, ladybugs, and gummy worms in their bursting Easter baskets for weeks, leaving me to rummage below the green-raffia basket grass for foil-wrapped mini-eggs I eat, one by one, by myself in bed late at night while watching documentaries about the Tudors.) For me, few things shout “treat!” more loudly than ducklings from Li-Lac, lambs molded out of white chocolate, and a tinful of robin’s-egg-colored speckled malted-milk eggs made in Germany . . . and few things shout “love” more loudly than a treat. Possibly my association of chocolate with parental love and caring has something to do with my dad bringing me a Hershey bar and Archie comic book when I was sick in bed with strep throat.

The candy-to-gift ratio in the Easter baskets does continue to tilt away from the sugar and toward the non-edible gift, however. I’ve already dispatched a big Easter present to Nettie at boarding school in New Hampshire. I stretched out the finding and assembling of its contents to maximum duration. First, I found a sturdy storage box about 18 inches wide, printed with a Liberty-esque floral pattern; then I bought Nettie a pair of shower slides at the Roberta Roller Rabbit boutique (the shopping trip described in my column last week); then I collected carrot-shape cones of sours and jellies from North Fork Girl Chocolates in Southold and a modest-size Belgian hollow-chocolate bunny from the North Fork Chocolate Company in Mattituck, then I jigsaw-puzzled it all into the box with a gift card from a cafe in Exeter, N.H., and some Korean beauty products from H Mart.

The other stupid part of my Easter ritual is that I can never find the previous years’ baskets and always have to root around at the Bargain Box for a new conveyance for the unwanted-candy delivery. But I found six of the old baskets just the other day! It was Monday night and I was looking for a hot-glue gun in my childhood bedroom — the room where I got the Hershey bar and the Archie comic, freshly wallpapered but, as the smallest bedroom in the house, empty these days — for my son’s 11th-hour construction of a temple in cardboard and sticks for a seventh-grade project on the fall of the Roman Empire, when I came upon the six Easter baskets, complete with grass and gingham-check fabric linings, on an uppermost shelf in my old closet. Teddy will find some beef jerky, some seaweed snacks, and new swim trunks nestled into his jelly beans.

And here I insert into this narrative the non sequitur that my Nettie has been elected to student council, up there at Exeter. My daughter is a dorm rep at Phillips Exeter Academy, and has made the lacrosse team! I may have managed the candy situation wrongly, as a mom — it’s just slightly possible I’ve spoiled my children — but I must have done something right. I understand that this out-of-context mom-boast is a brag so shamelessly braggadocious that it’s almost unforgivable, but, still: Happy Easter to me. And, no, I’m not sending her that gigantic Easter package because she has “earned it.” You don’t receive Easter basket bunnies and foil-wrapped Santas in the Christmas stocking because you earned them. The chocolate, like the love, is unconditional. The chocolate comes to the children for free.

Thank you for reading . . . 
...Your support for The East Hampton Star helps us deliver the news, arts, and community information you need. Whether you are an online subscriber, get the paper in the mail, delivered to your door in Manhattan, or are just passing through, every reader counts. We value you for being part of The Star family.

Your subscription to The Star does more than get you great arts, news, sports, and outdoors stories. It makes everything we do possible.