Easter Eggs or Hidden Mickeys are little details or layers that are intended only for a specific audience in the know to find—or at least, that’s the definition I’m using. They can also be self-referential to other things in other books in a series, or can be intended for a broader audience to find. I think of them as secret smiles we leave for people.
I don’t have a single “Easter egg” or “Hidden Mickey” in my memoir, Girlish. I’m not even sure how that would work in this memoir, to be honest, because my desire was to lay everything as bare as possible, as simply as possible, and everyone in my inner circle already knew my story, so they didn’t need any hidden references.
In my second memoir, Mama, Mama, Only Mama, there is only one inside joke that a beta reader caught and advised me to cut, but I couldn’t resist leaving it in. The manuscript is with my editor now, so I have no idea if she’ll let it ride or not. I’m going to keep my lips zipped on that one until I see if it makes it to the final version.
But, this past year, I amused myself and kept myself sane by writing a middle grade fantasy for my two boys. They were proud of me for getting Girlish published, excited to see the hardcopies arrive at our house, and more than slightly disappointed when I told them that they were too young to read it yet.
I wanted to write something they could read, so I started writing a book just for them. Every night I read them that day’s chapter at bedtime. This new book is almost entirely made up off Easter Eggs strung together—everything from character names, to the places in the book, to little details like clothing and accessories.
Every time I needed a made-up word, I went to a Yiddish-English dictionary first. I felt as if so many fantasy books rely on Latin, and I wanted to give a nod to my Jewish family, so I wrote what I called “Easter Eggs for Jewish kids” and the phrasing of that amused my children as well.
Because the book was written with the intension of of amusing my kids, I don’t actually know if the story is actually of any interest to other readers. I also feel somewhat like a fraud, because I didn’t make all that much stuff up—for example, every room I describe in the castle is based off of a room in our house, only better. But I will say that every character started to develop their own personality as I wrote the book, so that other than the two main characters, they don’t resemble anyone that much in real life, even if they bear their name or description.
Here’s a smattering of my favorite Easter Eggs from that manuscript, since I have nothing from Girlish:
Laeb – my eldest’s son’s Hebrew name
Rhinen – the baby talk name my eldest called his brother
Puckhik the cat – pukhik is Yiddish for fluffy, see our actual cat, below:
Laeb wears a sundial necklace he never takes off—my actual son wears a watch he never takes off.
King Bob lives in Zunland, Grandpa Bob lives in Sun City (Zun is Yiddish for sun)
Laeb and Rhinen’s father is an astronomer and studies the sky—my kids’ father is an air traffic controller and watches the sky at work every day.
I could go through every single chapter and chart the secret smiles I left for my children, but it would make for a very long blog about a book no one else has read and therefore has limited interest in. Apparently too many Easter eggs is considered bad form, but I’ve never been all that good at following the rules.
I will say this, though—after listening to the entire story, my youngest said “this is book is completely real.” Since it is about boys with dragon wings and a cat that changes color, I think he meant that he saw himself and our lives everywhere in it. And that makes me happy, even if it is never published and no one else reads it.