Most years, Easter is a chance for my parents, two brothers, three sisters, their spouses, their children’s spouses and my own family to get together. To put a rough number on that, it’s about a gagillion. (Okay, more like 40 to 60 people including friends.)

The germination of this Easter weekend began when one of us read an account of a Buckley family scavenger hunt. (The Buckley’s, for those who don’t know, are a profligate bunch and William F. founded the magazine National Review.) One year, that family took a bunch of family heirlooms – silver tea sets, that type of thing – and buried it on a sandbar somewhere in the Caribbean for the next day’s Easter hunt. The only problem? A storm blew up overnight and much of the family’s treasures were never recovered.

Great idea, right? Not really, but the bad outcome wasn’t enough to deter my family from having our own scavenger hunts, done “right.”

About 25 years ago, we started the first of many. We had it in Jupiter, Florida, where my parents were living at the time, on a small, uninhabited island across the way from their home. (This was before I had kids of my own, and my husband Mark was just a twinkle in my eye.) My sister and I “mapped” the island – which necessitated running through somebody’s yard wearing bathing suits and jumping into the water to swim across, then returning to the house and drinking a lot of beer while trying to remember what we had seen and translate that onto paper.

I think there were quadrants, and teams. And I remember we had to give some very strong hints to my nieces and nephews to find not only the eggs, but also the box of buried bathing suits, the big Easter “prize.”

Over the years, we settled down into a pretty good routine. More bathing suits. A massive basket-assembly party of grown women, sitting cross-legged in my mother’s bedroom to assemble the goodies and fill the plastic eggs. (Including the large golden one, usually containing a gift card.) An early morning trip to the island to hide the treasures and one designated “heathen” left behind on the island to guard the treasure while the rest went to church service. Then my father assembled the masses for a boat trip to “Easter Island.”

Easter Island is most currently located on the Indian River in Vero Beach where my parents live now. We bring picnic supplies to the island, sharing freely with the non-family visitors (poor souls who had envisioned a quiet Easter day at the water’s edge), and then go back home for a big meal.

If I make this sound like a photo spread for Coastal Magazine, I apologize for misleading you. (Certainly, my mom sets a beautiful table and she would kill me if I didn’t mention that. And Easter dinner is delicious.) But the parts that go “wrong,” are probably better. Like the time we happened across two nephews in an inflatable dinghy floating in the river because the gas can was empty. We towed them to Easter Island. Or dogs running off with chocolate bunnies and the whole rag tag mess of children shouting and giving chase. Or that unfortunate early morning incident with a treed raccoon, a hunting dog and a .22 rifle that brought the Sheriff to the door. (We call my dad the Teflon man. No matter what the charges are, his mixture of true ignorance of his children’s shenanigans and genuine likability usually mean the charges won’t stick.)

Every year, the Easter activities change a bit to suit the demographics. With most of the third generation in their teens, we needed to change it up a little. Two years ago, we had the “Olympics.” We divided into teams and held tug-o-wars, costume contests and a special challenge where the team members sat cross-legged in a line. The person in front scooped up a handful of flour and “passed” it to the person behind them. Again, our “Olympics” sadly deteriorated into a snapped rope that left a welt, bleeding cuts, flour stealing and throwing, and a PG-13 version of streaking that my mother refuses, to this day, acknowledge ever happened.

That’s why this year we are going to do a scavenger hunt with the help of the Goose Chase app, the same one the Boot Key Harbor residents used to turn mangrove cleaning into a game earlier this month. And, no, we’re not hiding the family heirlooms. But we picked up some pretty nifty, tarnished candelabras and other treasure at the Habitat for Humanity Re-Store. I’m sure the Buckleys wish they had thought of that.


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