When I was five years-old we lived in the small mountain community of Ruby, Washington. Small to the extent that it consisted of a single rustic mercantile supported by a few scrabble-board houses and a nearby struggling logging operation for which my father worked.
On Easter Sunday that year the owner of the store had hidden decorated Easter eggs and candies in the grassy field behind the store and down near the river that flowed nearby. Fifty or so children ranging in age from 4 to 12 and their families came to the event, and the kids eagerly gathered in front of the store ready for the festive hunt on that first warm day of spring after a bitter winter. My two older brothers and my younger sister were a part of this bustling, giggling crowd. This was my first Easter egg hunt and I was beyond excited.
Mac McElroy, the owner of the country store, dressed in his Sunday best, addressed all the children on the sunny side of the old weathered wood store. With one hand gripping the shiny chromed handlebars of a brand-new Schwinn bicycle he proudly announced that also hidden on the grounds was one golden egg. Whichever child found that very special egg would be given the bicycle. This was a very poor community and my family was amongst the poorest. No member of my family had a bicycle and little prospects of owning one any time soon.
And so it was that this gaggle of children exploded like confetti into the field and began the hunt. With woven basket in hand I zipped from one hiding place to another picking up gaily colored eggs and all sorts of candy. My basket full of goodies paled in contrast with the greatest prize, the Golden Egg. I knew I could find it if I put my mind to it, and so I set my basket down and draped myself in the magic power only a five-year-old can conjure. Wrapped in that confidence I raced about the meadow and remarkably within moments I found the Golden Egg nestled at the base of a rumble stone fence that bordered the property near the river. I remember the sunlight glistening on the golden foil as I held the treasure in both of my small shaking hands. Being one of the youngest participants I questioned my good fortune; surely this prize of prizes was meant for one of the older children. Positive that it was not meant for me, I carefully put the egg back where I found it and just stood there. All of my machinations had been observed by an older boy, and once I placed the egg back in its mossy nest, he quickly pushed me out of the way, reached down, grabbed the egg and whooping and hollering raced back across the field to claim his prize.
I have been haunted by that Golden Egg my entire life, thinking somehow that true good fortune was always intended for someone else. But today it finally dawned on me that all-in-all the Golden Egg had been a good haunting. For, you see, for me the prize was not the egg, it was the search itself: It was a spectacular spring day after a bitterly cold winter. It was a festive spirit of neighbors gathering. It was the magic of searching and finding the egg and then stepping back, because in my heart of hearts I knew it was the right thing to do.
So, for all this time the Golden Egg has been mine, wrapped in the many searches for stories hidden in the meadows of my mind.