Granny loved to color Easter eggs.
Every year, I’d spend the night with her either on the Friday or Saturday before Easter Sunday. She’d have the original PAAS coloring kit ready to go and a dozen eggs in the icebox. A little bit of Easter candy would get us in the spirit.
A big pot of water would go on the stove to gently boil the eggs so they wouldn’t get cracks. Meanwhile, we’d spread eight teacups out on the kitchen table, which was always covered with a blue checkered oilcloth — perfect for wiping up stray drops of dye. A colored tablet would go into each cup, followed by a little vinegar and water, delighting us with its fizz.
After the eggs boiled and cooled, we’d carefully lower one egg into each teacup with the wire egg dipper and chat while we waited for the colors to develop. While we talked, Granny would punch out the cardboard circles so that our eggs could dry while I put together the perforated paper egg stands. Some of our best conversations happened at that table, continuing late into the evening over teacups overflowing with eggs, vinegar and color.
Granny always rubbed decals onto the dried eggs, carefully using the back of a teaspoon to make sure every corner adhered. I liked to draw pictures and designs with a wax crayon and we’d each write our name on an egg. Since our names were both Audrey, one would have the proper name and one would simply say “Granny.”
Over the years, we tried several “new-fangled” Easter egg kits. One year, we tried to make marbled eggs. They turned out to be very pretty, but we were afraid to eat them — the dye smelled like pure poison. Another year, we tried to use plastic sleeves that were supposed to form to the egg, making a translucent design that went the whole circumference. But they slipped and slid and wrinkled all up. We always came back to the good old, original PAAS.
When I was in college, I still came home to color eggs with Granny. She was getting older, and so was I. But we laughed and giggled while we dipped and dyed, just like we always did. But, as it happens, life grew busier and I didn’t make it home as much anymore. Eventually, we stopped altogether.
My son was born the day before Easter, and as he grew from baby to little boy, we started coloring eggs. Easter egg kits had evolved by this point, and shelves sported kits for tie-dye eggs, kits with glitter and others with Sesame Street characters. We typically stuck with the good old original PAAS.
One year, in an effort to get my son to try new foods, I decided we would make our own natural food dyes using vegetables that we would then eat. We used red cabbage, spinach and beets along with turmeric and onion skins (but those weren’t for eating, of course). Our kitchen island soon filled with cutting boards of veggies ready to go on the stove. Oh, we had a good time making the dyes and we were very surprised at the colors some of the foods gave us. The eggs turned out beautifully! But I realized that my parenting experiment was not a success when it came time to try the foods. No amount of coaxing was going to get him to eat cabbage, spinach or beets. I’ll admit that I had a hard time choking those beets down with a smile as I tried to set a good example.
The next year, we were right back to the tried-and-true PAAS kit. No vegetables in sight.
Even through his teen years, we colored eggs every year, watching the tablets fizz and bending the egg dipper into just the right angle. We’d write our names in crayon and try to rub the decals on so that every corner adhered. And we’d laugh and talk just the way Granny and I did so many years ago.
And just like so many years ago, he now has his own life and obligations that prevent him from coming home as much as he used to.
But this Easter, I’ll still go buy a box of the good old, original PAAS, get out my teacups and vinegar, and sit at my table coloring eggs while my memories take me back to the oil cloth table in Granny’s kitchen, the big island covered with a whole rainbow of produce and all the good times shared with loved ones over fizzing cups of egg dye.
Born and raised in Citronelle, Atkins shares stories about growing up and living in the South in her book, “They Call Me Orange Juice,” and at her blog folkwaysnowadays.com.