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People always ask to come to my family gatherings.
I am the eldest grandchild on my mother’s side. She comes from a family of six kids, and they’ve had kids, and we’ve embraced the “outlaws” (the in-laws), and we have inducted some honorary members, and amidst all of this our pets too have inherited our quirkiness.
With affection and suspicions of notoriety, we have dubbed ourselves “The Mad Rand Clan”.
The Rands tend to be memorable when we loudly and colourfully make an appearance at a larger event such as a fiftieth or a funeral, or (heaven forbid after the last ever “My Fingers Are Stuck” trick of 2006 when my then eight-year-old cousin was tickled so much that he urinated all over my aunty in the middle of a restaurant) venture into a public place.
And hell – it’s Easter again.
My main concern is that I’ll be required to think of even more ingenious and elaborate ways to slink away and have a cigarette.
So, to ensure the family are conveniently distracted, I’ve planned ahead this year and written an article.
Perhaps not evidenced by how I revel in telling pub stories, I have a deep and bright love for my crazy family. With great delight each Easter we come together without embracing any religious affectation or ceremony, so I rejoice in blaspheming in this article. Like all sinful families, we tend to celebrate by satiating ourselves with all kinds of chocolate. (Except white chocolate. Because my sister Lucy only eats white chocolate. Hopefully she’s on a diet this year as I haven’t had any white chocolate since 1996.)
Until last month, no-one else but my mother was aware that apparently it is a great family tradition to have Easter at her house. And like any Rand Clan “tradition”, there have been long strings of emails and secret musings on how late John and Andrea and their kids are going to arrive this year. I decided to actually read the email banter because I needed material, and it appears that John and Andrea still haven’t responded.
Which is why I suppose my mother asked them to bring dessert.
At gatherings, I am required to rabidly dart everywhere because I am always in demand. My Easter responsibilities in the past have included: coordinating the acquisition of five hundred sparklers to set off a sparkler bomb in the backyard and make everyone fear for their lives; teaching my cousins and drunk uncle the difference between a two-pair and a three-of-a-kind in poker; and giving the boys the cheat codes for Grand Theft Auto so they can use dildos as weapons.
Palpably, the line between being both the cool (Jesus, even by using that word I’ve lost them) and responsible (and they’re gone) big cousin is splendidly difficult to navigate. My job of choreographing the circus of cousins to ensure that we can all do something fun and memorable together is always the biggest challenge.
And Easter always inspires the most demanding in me with… “The Egg Hunt”.
Unfortunately, they’ve begun to notice that the yardstick for the age of inclusion changes every year according to how old I am. This year, everyone below twenty-two has to go sit in the front room while I hide the eggs. And, like every year, the littler ones will eagerly grab a basket and run to wait, the teens will brood and grunt that they’re too old, the older ones will beg to be the “hiders”, the twins will sneak out to try and peek, and my sister will want to hide in her room waiting to emerge only to find the most difficultly placed eggs.
First I choose the obvious hiding spots for the younger ones – the ones along the top of the wall, the ones on the pond rocks, and that one that always gets stepped on when they run outside. The real challenge is to think of spots that are even more creative and exasperating than the previous year. These are the eggs in some of my sister’s intricate garden sculptures, the ones buried deep in the hedges, the ones the same colours as the flowers, and the infamous blue egg that gets stuck on top of one of the outside lights for ages whilst we all try to get it down.
On a tender note, sadly this Easter will be the first without my cousins’ grandfather Derek, who we will all miss very much. Even those of us with different politics from him who suspect he got a postal vote in before he passed away.
It is always a shame when The Egg Hunt is over. But secretly it is when my favourite part of the day begins. When the littlest is not looking, I will slink over to her wicker egg basket, pluck the big pink chocolate eggs out, re-hide them and watch her squeal in delight as her collection of big pink eggs magically keeps growing for the rest of the day.
I think The Egg Hunt is one of the rare times when I can delicately triumph in my role as the big cousin.
But as those still reading this may have suspected, my surname is not Rand. I carry my father’s last name, the patronymic O’Brien.
However, I think that side of the family should wait until Christmas. My father also happens to come from a family of six kids, and they’ve had kids, and they’ve had kids, and we’ve got outlaws, and have inducted some honorary members, and amidst all of this our pets too have inherited our quirkiness…