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"Did Jesus have Easter eggs when He was a little boy?" Bobby has a habit, ingrained at the age of six, of looking directly at you when he asks a question. I have always found this disconcerting—especially since he seems to have inherited it from his grandmother. She does this, as in "did you lock the front door?" when I probably forgot to do it.
I was picking up Bobby after Sunday school. I stalled by fumbling the fitting of the car key into the ignition. But time ran out on me. "I don't think so," I said finally. My mind was scurrying to calculate just where Bobby might be in his Sunday studies and I found I didn't have a clue. "Easter hadn't happened yet," I added and my voice was frankly timid. Somehow, I felt myself on the cusp of a theological discussion entirely beyond me.
"Oh, that's right." Bobby left it to me to figure out what I had been right about.
There was silence for a minute, but as I pulled out of the parking lot, I could feel his gaze boring into me again.
"What do baby chicks have to do with it? Danny Morton's uncle gave him a baby chick for Easter last year. But he died. The baby chick, I mean. "Do you think Uncle Bob will give me a baby chick this Easter?"
The Uncle Bob referred to was, at that time, the free-spirited bachelor youngest male of our family. Bobby's mother made him this child's namesake. After a childhood and teen years of constant battle with her brother, I was surprised at this but the grandmother was not at all.
"No, I don't think he will." I tried to head off the idea. If Bobby expressed an interest, it would be just like Bob to come up with a whole flock of hens and a rooster and, somehow, expect to be invited back ever again.
"Did Jesus have baby chicks? Mary and Joseph had animals in the stable. And sheep, too, I guess. Like under the Christmas tree. Maybe they had a chicken, too." Traffic was light and I risked a quick glance. Bobby's eyes were distant now as he pursued thoughts of his own device. Somehow, he had caught me up in the skein of his thinking and I nearly rear-ended a slow-moving Buick before I snapped back to attention.
"I really doubt it," I said. I was thinking there had to be some way out of this labyrinth of disconnects which somehow was beginning to make sense to me.
"Is that why we color Easter eggs?"
Bobby must have sensed I was floundering. "Well, the baby chicks come out of eggs, right? And…" He paused so I could catch up with the pace of the thinking. "But I don't see what that has to do with it, either." There are marked inconsistencies in the adult world. Bobby's tone reflected a touch of strained patience in coping with them.
"Me, neither," I said. It was on the tip of my tongue to mention that the eggs are hard-boiled. We had spent the previous year's Good Friday boiling them and dipping them in dye and merrily slopping up the kitchen countertop into a psychedelic montage. Obviously, there would be no chicks from these eggs. But was this the time and place for me to explain animal reproduction to a six-year-old? Besides, unthinkingly, I found I had slowed down until an insistent and ill-tempered horn sounded behind me. I think it came from the Buick.
"I like the chocolate eggs better."
"Me, too," I said.
"But we're going to color eggs again this year, aren't we Grandpa?"
"You bet we are!" My genuine edge of enthusiasm welcomed the thought. It was enough to edge out the question about there being chickens in the stable at Bethlehem. Almost.