Bunny Prints and Believing

Originally posted March 20, 2008

Easter has always been about new life, and about believing in things not easily seen. For my kids, it’s also about chocolate.

The Easter my son Noah was four, he unwrapped his chocolate bunny and closed his eyes. Like a cigar aficionado, he smelled its length, deeply inhaling the heady scent of confection perfection. “It’s good,” he volunteered after a few bites, “but I like the bunny with the hole in it, Mommy.”

“The hollow one?” I inquired, making mental notes.

“Yeah. It tastes better,” he explained.

Otherwise, everything else in his basket met with his satisfaction. The jelly beans rocked, and the blue Peeps didn’t disappoint.

Noah was also pleased that the Easter Bunny had left his and his baby sister Holly’s baskets by the front door, which, so far, he’s done every year. Mine had always been hidden by the Easter Bunny, when I was a child. Every year, my husband and I debate the merits of hiding versus leaving them in plain view by the door. He says it’s sadistic to make the kids work for their baskets.

“But it was so much fun,” I always argue, explaining how exhilarating it was to anticipate the discovery of my basket, hidden in a new place every year. Sometimes it was in the dishwasher or the oven, and sometimes that nervy bunny would sneak it under my bed as I slept. It was especially thrilling to discover a basket meant for my sister or one of my brothers, and tease them that I knew where it was. I credited the Easter Bunny with a sense of adventure and a creative imagination that always delighted us. One year that clever Bunny even left a trail of unraveled yarn, which wended its way throughout the house, leading us to the jackpot. Very cool bunny.

I learned the truth about the Easter Bunny one Easter Eve when I was about nine, when my visiting cousins, sister and I were supposed to be slumbering together in my loft bedroom. Unable to sleep, I abandoned my sleeping bag and walked downstairs to my parents’ bedroom, expecting to find comfort or a glass of water. Instead, I found an uncanny frenzy of overtired and giddy parents, aunts and uncles, clumsily assembling a potpourri of Easter baskets. Smoking was still all the rage, so the room sported a haze that lent a surreal quality to my discovery: chocolate eggs, chocolate bunnies, fake green grass and jelly beans were sprawled all over my parents’ bed. The adults were oblivious to my presence as I stood in the doorway in my flannel nightgown. I just backed out quietly, not making a sound, my mind a whirl of questions.

I recall the impulse to run upstairs and wake everyone up to tell them what I’d seen. I was ‘in the know,’ after all, and was delighted at the prospect of being seen as all-knowing before my sister and cousins.

But I never did.

I doubt I withheld my mind-blowing discovery out of compassion for my younger relatives. I think I was just too shocked to speak about it, and remember feeling lonely with my discovery. I’m not sure, but I’ll bet this was the beginning of the end for me: Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy probably retreated into that smoky haze, right along with the Easter Bunny.

Now that I’m a parent, Easter is definitely still about chocolate, but I’m a believer all over again, too.

“See his footprints, Mommy? I see two claws and big bunny prints,” Noah breathlessly intoned on that Easter morning when he was four. I made my way over to the window to have a look. Sidewalk, grass, trees, and the early morning goings-on of the resident squirrels and birds clamoring for their breakfasts. The usual. Everything as it should be.

“Yes baby, I see them,” I said.

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