East of Hyde Park, (a tiny community in upper Northern Utah), is a small hill named Round Hill because, well, it’s round. It hasn’t changed much beyond a slowly growing lacework of motorbike trails adding to a foot path that was once its only mark.
On Easter, my oldest daughter sent a video of her family rolling their Easter eggs down their driveway, similar to how scouts race Pinewood Derby cars. In her video, family members selected their favorite from among the eggs they decorated, lined them up behind a board at the top of their steep driveway, then cheered for their colorful entries as the board was lifted and they began their wobbly descent. As she wrapped up her video, my daughter said, “This is our citified version of the Round Hill races.” I had filed the Round Hill races away in some remote memory bank when we moved from that valley more than two decades ago. Her words instantly spilled all those vivid memories out.
I have no idea when the Round Hill races began. My dad’s family helped settle Hyde Park, and from my earliest recollection, part of our family’s Easter tradition included going to the top of Round Hill to race colored eggs down its craggy sides. It was just part of our Easter celebration. For all I know, Dad’s ancestors started the tradition more than 100 years ago.
There are vast differences between politely tumbling eggs down a smooth driveway and racing them down the side of a small mountain. For starters, eggs rolling down a driveway are still intact when they hit the bottom. If there’s any harm done, it’s a random hairline crack.
When eggs were launched on Round Hill, we expected them to be cracked — we planned for them to be cracked. As their bouncing picked up speed, the eggs demolished into nothing left to salvage as they spun into ever decreasing bits of rubbery egg white and smashed yellow yolk pieces. We laughed ourselves silly at the sight of a particularly well launched egg careening into oblivion through a series of eggy explosions as it made its way downhill.
Mom always packed a salt shaker. Her frugal intent was to have us send our eggs down the hill, go pick them up, use the cracks to peel the shells off, salt the eggs, and eat them. The problem was most of us couldn’t stand hard boiled eggs. This explains why we searched so hard to find the steepest place to launch our eggs. If Mom knew that, she never let on. Come to think of it, I don’t think she liked hard boiled eggs either. But this was Dad’s family tradition, and so, by golly, we were there on Round Hill every Easter Sunday.
I grew up, became a teen, and still spent each Easter with the family on Round Hill. In time I met and married my husband — between two Easters. So the next Easter Sunday, we both headed to Round Hill. He’d been around my family long enough by then to not be surprised. In fact, he also laughed at the exploding eggs. Mom was pleased when he actually used the salt shaker on an egg that didn’t entirely explode. As our own children came along, we took them to Round Hill each Easter. Now three generations were exploding eggs on the hillside. (The coyotes surely celebrated when they saw us coming.)
Family traditions — even the strange ones — are worth something. They bring us together. Even feuding family members can be pulled back into the fold if a family tradition shows up in the middle of their battle. Family traditions give us mutual bragging rights. And they make for good memories, often shared with the introductory remark of, “Remember when …”
Family traditions usually take some effort. It wasn’t simple for Mom and Dad to load seven kids into the Jeep along with dozens of eggs and head for the hills after lunch. That journey and the egg rolling took several hours out of a holiday Sunday. But they did it. We like to believe that the longer family traditions exist, the stronger they become. But the thing that kills a family tradition is losing interest in it. Sadly, I checked with all my siblings and learned that this year, not one of us made the trip to Round Hill. True, the rain kept many of the valley dwellers away. The rest of us live so far away that to go there isn’t feasible.
But rolling eggs down a driveway just doesn’t cut it for me. I told my grandkids about this crazy tradition of their great-grandparents. Not surprisingly, they loved the idea. So next Easter we will find a small hill. I’ll bring a salt shaker. The eggs will explode again. The kids will belly laugh again. The coyotes will rejoice. And a (strange) family tradition will live on.