Lately, I have been reading Easter stories to the kids. The books are all pastel color and blooming flowers. Absolute candy on our bookshelves. Our favorite is The Country Bunny and The Little Gold Shoes. It was written in 1939 and has been loved by millions of little todlets ever since. But when I read it to Viola and Margaret it feels like maybe it belongs to just us.
In the story there are five Easter Bunnies. Each time one retires a new one is chosen. The new Easter Bunny must be kind, wise and swift. The Country Bunny had wanted to be an Easter Bunny since she was a little girl. The fast jack rabbits and fancy city rabbits laughed at her ambitions. Country bunnies, they told her (especially girls), were not made for great things. By page three, the dream is set aside and she is a loving wife and a happy mother to twenty one baby bunnies. When I was little I remember thinking the Country Bunny’s transition from dreaming girl child to mother of a herd was more abrupt than reality. I now wonder that it takes three whole pages for the change to take place.
She raises her family well. When the children are old enough she teaches them to care for themselves and their home. They can sweep, sing and paint. Set the table, make the bed and dance. ( A nice list. So far I have only mastered making the bed. And Riley would say that is debatable.) The family is happy, their cottage is cozy and it is nearly enough.
One day she hears that it is time to choose a new Easter Bunny. The Country Bunny and her children attend the festivities. The Old Grandfather Bunny, director of all things Easter, picks her and her lovely family out of the crowd. After some gentle questioning he learns she has a happy home. So he knows she is kind. She has taught her children to live well without her constant hovering. So he knows she is wise. She can keep track of twenty one children at any one moment in the day. So he knows she is very, very fast. The Old Grandfather Bunny surprises everyone in attendance and asks the little mama to be the next Easter Bunny. She left her cottage expecting to watch someone else receive her childhood dream. It never occurred to the Country Bunny that the someone else would be her.
At this point in the story I generally start to cry...just a little. And then Easter Eve comes. And there is a palace full of sparkling eggs. And a mountain the Country Bunny almost can’t climb. And a sick boy that gets the year’s most beautiful Easter egg. Finally, the Country Bunny’s long night of work is over. She returns home with arms full of colorful eggs, one for each child. The imagery of a loving mother coming home to her babies with her arms brimming with loveliness gets me every time. By the end of the story I am a snotty, bawling mess. Margaret is generally very concerned.
She doesn’t understand.
Sometimes I feel like I went to sleep one night, a ten year old that believes in fairies and woke up the next day with a family to love and a mortgage to pay. I adore my life with my little girls. It is a kind of magic I didn’t know existed. I also love the dreams that were set aside to make room for their pudgy cheeks. I read about that little bunny and pray that I can teach my babies well. That I will be kind, wise and swift. That I will know how to show them the practicalities and bits of loveliness in this life. Maybe then when the time comes, we will be ready for me to catch hold of my dreams.
When I do, I promise to come home with my arms full.