Home groan…Easter grass

With all the strides made lately toward ecological awareness and responsibility, how come green cellophane Easter “grass” still shows up on the store shelves? Isn’t it a bit ironic that McDonald’s has been forced to develop an environmentally sound alternative to Styrofoam while employees at Bunny Turf, Inc. are still shredding up heaps of neon green strips with a half-life of 200 years?

Back when I had to deal with the stuff as a necessary evil of young motherhood, I told myself I’d like it better if it was somehow recycled—re-purposed from some equally annoying product. Instead of making all those strips from scratch, I always thought the Bunny Turf people should maybe reuse the see-through parts of the Publishers Clearinghouse envelopes I threw away by the truckload each year. Add a little green dye, chop and re-bag it, and presto…one bothersome by-product replaces another! But by June, still finding the glossy clumps rooted in my carpet and underneath my couch cushions, I’d see the flaws in that thought process. No commercially recycled product could ever come close enough to the real thing, I realized, since there was no way of recharging each teensy fake blade with a thousand volts of static electricity. And without that characteristic cling lingering long after the Cadbury eggs have disappeared, the product just wouldn’t be genuine Easter grass.

Of course I didn’t always hate the stuff. I once welcomed its emerald plasticity as a sign of the season the same way I embraced cotton candy on opening day of the fair, Twinkies returning to my lunch box, and those bright yellow and orange corn syrup kernels that came out of hiding each Halloween. I even liked the feel of it, stuffed all springy and bright in my basket the night before Easter, full of promises even better than anything that was bursting forth in my back yard. By morning, this special nest would cushion my stash of chocolatey eggs, little pink and blue marshmallow chicks, and whatever else I could grab before my taller, faster sister plucked it out of hiding.

I bought my daughters their first bags of grass with the same childish exuberance. How precious they were going to be, I thought, prancing around in their little footed jammies looking for what the Easter bunny left and laying it reverently in their very own clump of virgin turf! But somewhere between then and the fifth year I had to rip the long green plastic shreds out of the bowels of my vacuum cleaner, I became less enamored. “I am never buying this crap ever again!” I vowed. “It’s like tinsel on steroids!” As soon as the girls’ Easter haul was eaten and I had re-purposed their baskets, I’d scrape as much of the stubborn tendrils into the trash as possible and pray that my Hoover Wind Tunnel could manage the stragglers. I actually did succeed in removing it from my premises long enough to imagine that, if I put out really big solid chocolate bunnies that year, the girls wouldn’t notice their baskets were bare on the bottom.

“Happy Easter!” one of the Grammies announced the next day, holding out a new basket for each girl. She had been to the dollar store and loaded up on jelly beans, plastic eggs she’d stuffed with spare change, and enough Easter grass for the new millennium. That’s when I gave in, stopped allowing my Easter grass grudge to dampen my holiday gaiety, and finally accepted a few elemental truths: 1) I would not have to buy more Easter grass; but 2) I could also never hope to remove it from my home because 3) the Grammies would always bring more. They had a direct line to the original source, it seemed, plucking from what they began hoarding circa 1958. (I know, because one year in Becky’s allotted clump I found a retro foil Hersey’s wrapper from my favorite candy when I was her age.) Before long, I became pioneer mom for my own “green” movement, stockpiling my ancestral ball and—except for what I lost once in a batch of dirty socks—cramming it all back into a dusty Hannaford bag in the closet. Then, when the girls finally admitted they believed a giant rabbit hopped into their living room with candy only because of the candy part, I dumped the mother lode, bag and all, into the trash and watched Waste Management haul it away.

But it seemed like just a brief moment in time before I wanted it back—that foolish, ancient clump of plastic grass and all the memories that went with it. “I’m so glad you had Easter grass!” I said to the Walgreens clerk the day before Easter some years back. “I like the green, but it’s good you had pink and yellow because I bought my girls these matching pinwheels, too!”

“That’s nice,” she said. “How old are your girls?”

“Twenty-two and 26,” I answered.

Old enough to appreciate how perfect the grass cradled the “big girl” treats their dad decided to hide instead of chocolates. He thought it might be really fun to do one more Easter egg hunt with the girls before we moved to Rangeley. And do it with liquor store nips. He was right.

I have plenty of time, they tell me, before I’ll have to start garnering my own grandma load of grass. Meanwhile, I might just surprise them with a new Easter tradition and load up a couple State of Maine-shaped Easter baskets I saw advertised in Down East magazine. I figure I can load a ton of candy in a big basket like that, stretching Twizzlers all the way from Fort Kent to Kennebunk, and nesting a couple Reese’s eggs down in Eastport. Only thing is, I’ll have to line it all with brown grass to be regionally correct this time of year…and remind them to never assume what’s hiding up around Rangeley is a Milk Dud or a chocolate-covered raisin!