OK, peeps, enough already with the Peeps.
The brightly colored, sugary marshmallow treats are celebrating their 60th anniversary this year, and apparently they've hired a press agent for the occasion. Newspaper articles, TV commercials, online blogs; they even have a Facebook page. In the last week, I've learned that Peeps come in a variety of shapes for different occasions: gingerbread men for Christmas, pumpkins for Halloween, even hearts and teddy bears for Valentine's Day. But a true Peeps purist will acknowledge only the yellow chicks as being worthy of the name, while modernist Peeps peeps blog about diorama contests, microwave duels, Peepsonality tests, and Peepsza recipes.
Peeps were never my favorite Easter candy. They were just a bit too sweet for my taste and I thought their spongy texture was kind of creepy. I preferred chocolate-covered marshmallow bunnies and speckled Robin's Eggs. I liked the hollow chocolate bunnies, too, because their ears were much easier to bite off than the solid ones. But the real prize, as far as I was concerned, was the Cadbury egg with its white creme filling, complete with gooey yellow "yolk." And yes, I'm aware that most people would consider a simulated raw egg to be considerably creepier than a chewy cartoon chick, as my late husband used to point out. Barry loved Peeps when he was a child, but as an adult with diabetes, he was forced to give them up. I think my lack of Peep appreciation (aPeeps-ciation?) confounded him.
We did agree that no Easter basket would be complete without a smattering of jelly beans - the big, fat classic kind, not those fancy-pantsy little gourmet ones. I do like Jelly Bellies, but we're talking tradition here. I used to trade away the purple and pink ones for my favorites, the green and yellow.
It's been years since I last popped a green jelly bean, decades since my last egg hunt. My earliest Easter memories are of sunrise services at Pookela Church in Makawao. I remember parading with the other little girls in our pastel dresses, patent leather Mary Janes with lace-trimmed white socks and, of course, our Easter bonnets: curved-brim straw hats, satin-covered pillboxes, class project chapeaus fashioned out of construction paper. We scoured the churchyard hunting for eggs in the cool, crisp Upcountry air, and brought our bounty into the dining hall to eat along with freshly baked hot cross buns and cups of steaming cocoa.
The last Easter sunrise service I attended was in the early 1970s, during my sophomore year at Baldwin High School. My friend Barbara picked me up in her Volkswagen Beetle and we drove to the Kaanapali golf course for an inspirational service, followed by an equally refreshing dip in the ocean. At 7 a.m., most hotel guests were still asleep in their rooms, so we had the whole beach to ourselves. It was a glorious day.
Twenty-five years later, I spent Easter Sunday in a different kind of church. Haleakala was Barry's favorite place on Earth, a haven and a heaven. He'd go in for four or five days at a time, relishing the solitude and the physical challenge, reveling in the sheer magnificence of nature. After years of cajoling, he finally talked me into joining him on Easter weekend, 1997. It was everything he had promised, and more. We talked about making it an annual tradition, but we only managed one more Easter in the crater together. Life just got too busy and, truthfully, as awestruck as I was by Haleakala, I preferred dining out to camping out. I was a softie, a Cadbury egg, married to a rough-and-tumble Peep.
Ten years after he introduced me to his place of worship, almost to the day, and also on an Easter weekend, Barry departed on his final solo trek. His soul left his body in a Phoenix hospital bed, but I'm fairly certain it flew straight to Haleakala.
Each year since then, I've celebrated certain occasions with a few reflective hours at the summit. This year, I thought about doing an overnight crater trip in his memory, either on Easter weekend or his 6th Rebirthday, which is the following Sunday. Of course, I dismissed that thought pretty quickly and came up with a better plan: a personal Easter sunrise ceremony at the crater rim lookout, with a thermos of French roast coffee and a basket full of classic yellow Peeps. I'm hoping the altitude will have a favorable effect on their texture. If not, I'll eat just one and use the rest to build a memorial diorama. As irreverent as that may seem, I know Barry would aPeeps-ciate it.
* Kathy Collins is a performance artist, broadcaster and freelance writer whose "Sharing Mana'o" column appears every Wednesday. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.