Egg hunt absent assaults; and returning to a great museum

By Jayson Jacoby April 06, 2012 09:42 am

I like candy as much as the next guy, but I’m not belting some three-year-old with a forearm shiver just so I can get a chocolate egg or a handful of jelly beans.

Even my sweet tooth, which has all the moral fiber of Robespierre, balks at assaulting children.

(Possibly as little actual fiber, too, what with the nutritional deficiencies of both candy and French cuisine.)

Moreover, I refrain from pushing around wee people with the sole goal of making sure my kids get (more than) their share of the spoils.

If you’ve ever witnessed certain Easter egg hunts from which adults are not expressly, and vigorously, banned, you’ll understand that such willpower is hardly universal.

Especially if, as with Baker City’s and many other such events, the acquisition of eggs is less a “hunt” than a “grab.”

Not that it can be any other way.

When you’re striving to send hundreds of kids home with their faces smeared with nougat rather than tears, you can’t really conceal the eggs.

Instead you offset the lack of secrecy with sheer volume — put enough prizes out there and even the most timid tot’s apt to get something for his bucket.

Certain parents, though, would no more leave such a thing to chance than they would peddle their precious offspring on eBay.

Hence the multi-generational meleé that ensues each spring when Lynette Perry, the Herald’s advertising director, sounds the horn to start the Easter egg hunt at Geiser-Pollman Park.

(The Herald, largely through Lynette’s efforts, has sponsored the event for many years.)

We are, it seems, fortunate in that our local festivities have not yet descended to the sort of depravity which excites reality TV producers.

Perhaps you read the Associated Press story we recently published from Colorado Springs, Colo.

The annual egg hunt there has been canceled. Its organizers, according to the story, were aghast at how aggressively some parents acted during the 2011 event.

The story had an absurdity to it that was, to my editor’s eye, irresistible.

Then, too, the descriptions from Colorado Springs were at least superficially similar to what I’ve seen in Geiser-Pollman, so I figured the story would resonate with our readers.

The absurd part, to me, wasn’t the notion that parents can be obnoxious. We all know they can be.

What struck me as passing strange was the theory outlined in the article: That the fiasco in Colorado Springs is an indictment of the peculiar attitudes of parents of so-called “millennial” children — and in particular those parents who are themselves members of the Baby Boom generation.

The AP story quoted Ron Alsop, a former Wall Street Journal reporter and author of “The Trophy Kids Grow Up,” a book that studies the “millennial children” generation.

(The time span for this group varies depending on the source, but a broad definition would include people born between the early 1980s and the early 2000s.)

Alsop described the Colorado Springs egg hunt tussles as “the perfect metaphor for millennial children. They (parents) can’t stay out of their children’s lives.”

Now I’m all for ridiculing parents who treat their kids like gods who must always be appeased — and right now — lest they start smiting people with thunderbolts or something.

(Or tossing the DVD player out the car window.)

But I’m pretty sure those parents have been around as long as procreation has.

I can well imagine a Neanderthal dad backhanding the brat from the next cave over to ensure his son gets the biggest hunk of mammoth meat.

(“Did you know my boy has been working with round stones? The next big thing in transportation,” dad says. “He’s a genius, that one.”)

There’s nothing outright malevolent about bragging, of course, so long as the parents’ enthusiasm doesn’t precipitate the sort of shoving match that plagued the Colorado egg hunt.

But the distinction between parents who are awfully involved in their kids’ exploits, and parents who are just, well, awful, can be a hazy one, obscured by the fog of good intentions.

It seems to me that Alsop’s theory — that the current crop of parents surpasses all before it for sheer gall — might be informed more by appearances than by reality.

The accoutrements available to today’s parents to tout their kids’ achievements are more ubiquitous than ever.

As with fashion, this can be a matter of taste; and the point at which earnest pride edges into narcissistic ostentation is not easily defined.

To cite one familiar example, I don’t much like those bumper stickers that celebrate honor roll students.

Is it really necessary to alert drivers to this fact, most of whom haven’t the slightest interest, by means of a decal frequently encrusted with road grime and on which birds relieve themselves?

Just email the grandparents and be done with it.

And yet I get that it’s perfectly natural, and reasonable, for parents to be pleased when their kids bring home good marks.

I don’t mean to imply that parents who favor boastful bumper stickers are more likely to elbow helpless toddlers who are reaching for a pastel-colored plastic Easter egg.

They’re not.

But public commendations of children’s prowess are so common and so visible nowadays that I think it’s easy to unfairly connect the innocent — a bumper sticker — with the nasty — shoving a kid’s nose into the grass with one hand while grabbing candy with the other.

And from there it’s natural to assume that this trend is a new and noxious blight on society.

The Baby Boom has much to answer for, to be sure.

(Janis Ian and the Pet Rock, to name but two egregious examples.)

But I can’t go so far as to blame that generation for pushy parenting.

So-called “helicopter parents,” I’m certain, were around long before Sikorsky finished his first sketch.


. . .


I toured the Baker Heritage Museum on Sunday and I felt guilty the whole hour or so I was in there.

Not because I busted a priceless exhibit or anything.

(Although I was accompanied by a four-year-old and a toddler, so the risk was considerable, even though the toddler was confined to a carrier hauled by his mother.)

I was ashamed, rather, because so many years had passed since I last visited this finest collection of Baker County’s legacy.

So long, in fact, that I still think of the place as the Oregon Trail Regional Museum.

(But not as the Natatorium — my history in Baker City isn’t that extensive.)

I’m no museum connoisseur, mind you.

But I’ve strolled through quite a few small town museums, and the Baker Heritage seems to me a sterling example of the breed.

My measuring stick, so to speak, is this: When I walk out of the dimly lit museum and into the bright outdoors — when I leave the past for the present, in other words — does the weight of the town’s history feel as though it has gained perceptible mass?

This is of course an utterly subjective matter.

But when I emerged from the Baker Heritage Museum into the sunshine, and I looked at the greening grass of Geiser-Pollman Park and the white face of the Elkhorns, I had a renewed sense of all the decades and people and experiences that comprise Baker City’s history.

At the same time I felt as though a figurative weight had been lifted from my shoulders — the burden of that inexcusable interval between my visits to the museum.

I promise it won’t happen again.

Before we even got to the car, Olivia, whose interest in the minerals that glow under a blacklight borders on obsession, was asking: “Can we go again tomorrow?”


Jayson Jacoby is editor of the Baker City Herald.