Easter hit me like a ton of bricks last week. It shouldn’t have. After all, I had it all planned out. It was school Spring vacation and we were going to be traveling, so in anticipation of the holiday I had picked out a host of items that would fit easily into my carry-on: pretty tissue paper, tiny pencil sets, little boxes of origami paper, and brightly decorated cloth bags to serve as the “baskets”… To all that I added one small stuffed animal each, and then stopped to consider the inevitable question: should I buy a sugar-added treat? Just one?
A little plastic carrot full of jellybeans, perhaps? Or a teeny tiny chocolate bunny?
I wavered. Just for a moment. Then I thought- ah, heck with it. This is fine- more than fine. It was a pretty cute little assemblage if I did say so myself- and I love this kinda crap so I should know. Plus, I knew in the course of our travels we’d be seeing relatives- first stop Grandma’s house- and I figured, between one thing and another, there’d probably be a sugar-treat for them in there somewhere.
I had no idea how right I would turn out to be. The day before the holiday at Grandma’s, suddenly chocolate bunnies began materializing out of thin air- popping out of toasters, zip-lining in from skylights like Tom Cruise’s character in Mission Impossible. Steve appeared with two chocolate chicks; my mom had gold-foil wrapped Godiva bunnies at the ready.
For those who are counting, that’s two chicks and two bunnies, so far. Okay, I thought- there are the treats. Done.
Then we were off for the “big” part of our trip- a mini-family reunion in California. Easter, of course, was morning after our flight- so you can picture me late that first night, jet lagged and hiding in the hotel closet, desperately trying to find a way to quietly stuff crinkly tissue paper into little cloth bags. I’m pretty sure it sounded like I was trying to process ball bearings in a blender. Fortunately, after spending the entire day on the airplane everyone was exhausted and sleeping so soundly I could’ve been trying to stuff a live hippo under the fold-out couch and no one would’ve so much as rolled over.
In the morning the girls got up and -surprise!- the Easter Bunny had found us. That little guy is amazing. He must read all our Facebook posts or something.
But, as it turns out, there was more Easter in the offing. My Uncle Jim- who I adore- was incredibly thoughtful, and had arranged for each of the five kids in attendance to have their very own personalized basket with (and you knew this was coming) a chocolate Easter bunny inside, and handfuls of other candy treats. Okay.
Then it was time for the Easter egg hunt.
Now, let me just state now that I am a terrible person, and I know it. Should I be carping about the amount of sugar involved in celebrating a “normal” Easter, or should I be incredibly grateful for the the fact that my children have so many wonderful family members who love them and care enough to want to celebrate them and make them happy on such a holiday? Would I prefer they not celebrate with us? Of course not! I feel terrible even telling you about it. This, of course, is exactly the problem: love- celebration- affection, in our culture, equals sugar. Which is why I’m telling you about it.
So to sum up, our vacation week was one of sugar popping up incessantly. Beyond family and pagan rites of Spring, candy just seemed to be… everywhere! It was in our shoes! Behind our ears! Did I mention our hotel put handfuls of chocolate mints on our nightstands every time they made up the room? Did I mention that, between the Frosted Flakes, the Yoplait yogurt and Otis Spunkmeyer muffins, the hotel breakfast bar was a freakin advertisement for the HFCS industry? Did I mention that when your kid orders a blueberry waffle in a restaurant they just assume you want an entire can of Reddi-Whip dumped on top of it, in addition to your maple syrup? I thought this was California- land of the ridiculously healthy!
Sure, Californians seem a little more obsessed with antioxidants and “Superfoods” than anywhere else ( do we really need menu labels reminding us how good for us blueberries are?) but they still think the same wrongheaded things we all think: that kids somehow deserve, and even need sugar in some weird primeval way. That honey or agave is better for you than sugar. That fruit juice is good for you, and that having the occasional soda isn’t going to kill you.
But it is going to kill you. Not so very long ago no one talked about diabetes- it was considered pretty rare. Now, we all know people with diabetes- lots of them. There are enough people with the condition to support their own mainstream magazine on the subject.
People are acclimatizing themselves to this new order of things with amazing readiness- as if type II diabetes were something we just have to accept- a mysterious modern illness that everyone has a statistical chance of getting sooner of later and, to a certain extent, whaddaya-gonna-do-about-it. But people seem to forget that, although type II diabetes moves slow, it can still kill you. And they forget that we know what causes it, that it’s preventable. Heck, it’s even reversible if we catch it in time.
But unfortunately it’s easier to cross your fingers than it is to effect actual change in your life and your diet- especially when everyone around you is encouraging you to have another soda with your hot fudge sundae. Why not? What’s the worst thing that could happen?
A few years ago, my aunt died from complications of diabetes. If not for that she would’ve been at this reunion with the rest of us. I’d say that’s pretty much the worst thing that could happen.
Later on in our trip my seven-year-old looked at me. “Mommy, the Easter Bunny will still come at home, won’t he? Our regular baskets will be waiting for us at home, right?”
For a moment I was speechless. I was bewildered by the mere thought of yet another basket of candy. Potentially a fourth chocolate bunny…? (I guess they aren’t kidding about how they multiply.) I was still strategizing how I was going to make a whole lot of this stuff disappear without the kids noticing too much. Seriously??? I thought. Is this not enough candy for you!?! But then I realized that she was asking a different question. It was not so much about sugar treats per se, as much as it was about home and traditions we have established as a family. She just wanted to know the rules.
“No honey” I said. “The Easter Bunny only visits us in one place.”
PS- The Easter Bunny giveth, and the Easter Bunny taketh away. Although some of the Easter chocolate was enjoyed in California, the majority of it was left behind in our hotel room. I hate any kind of waste, but the trash can seems to be one of our primary lines of defense in the war to avoid frying our internal organs with fructose.