"There was once a velveteen rabbit, and in the beginning he was really splendid."
-The Velveteen Rabbit
For many years, while she was still alive, early chirps of spring and the promise of Easter prompted mother to retell the story of my year-old self and the yellow plastic bunny. Family friend and walking-distance neighbor, Mrs. Gedvila, had stopped to visit and gifted him to me. I cooed and gurgled appropriately in my high chair with my new toy until the second that dear lady closed the door to leave. Then, "BAM!" Mister Yellow Bunny forcibly met the ground, cleanly snapping an ear from his little plastic head.
I think the homicidal horror of what she witnessed caused mother to decide that MYB and I be separated for a space of time. He was eased from my grasp and tucked away, out of mind and memory, for his own safety. That was in 1949.
"And so the little Rabbit was put into a sack with the old picture-books and....carried out to the end of the garden."
Ten years ago the time came for me, as it does for us all, to clear out and clean my childhood home, the prelude to one last, loving good bye. Boxes, boxes, everywhere. Corners and closets of dust. Smiles through tears at days long past of good times together. I slipped the cover, bound by shoe lace ties, from a tired old box, and recognized him immediately. MYB. Nestled comfortably in brittle cotton batting, I'd like to say he blinked in the sun and asked, "Where have you been all these years?" But he did not. He let me do all the talking, listening to the rambling tale of how far I've come since the day we met, coupled with a heartfelt promise to never hurt him again.
My foray into stacks named "Easter" yielded other treasures from the past. A pair of egg-clutching rabbits, for starters. I suspect those, too, were candy toting gifts from doting neighbors. A third bunny, I'm guessing, had long since hopped the coop, since we were sisters three. The middle of us, Mary, inscribed her name in careful grade school script on the tag attached to one of a pair of 50s style baskets I also found. These would have greeted us, packed to the brim, at Easter dawn while mom and dad smiled and crooned and took adorable pictures of us in our jammies, cheeks crammed full of oozing chocolate and tangy jelly bean juice.
Following the home-again promenade from morning Mass, to grandmother's house we'd go. And there, in vivid pastel splendor - one white, one pink, one yellow - awaited bunnies so soft, so plush, and so sweet that we vigorously loved off not only their ears, but their fuzzy tails, pokey whiskers, and button-y bright eyeballs as well. I have my own to prove it!
"(The Boy) loved him so hard that he loved all his whiskers off, and the pink lining to his ears turned grey....and he scarcely looked like a rabbit any more, except to the Boy."
Thank you, mom, for saving all these things for us. It's my turn now, to relate the tales of MYB and his mini plastic and straw stuffed cousins. Indulgent nods from family acknowledge the quaintness of my past. But I'm the only one who goes back home again with each seasonal un-boxing, settling comfortably into memories of youth to share the journey of "becoming real" with vintage, deeply cherished one-eared companions.
"Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand."
The Velveteen Rabbit
(children's fiction, public domain) was published by English-American author Margery Williams in 1922.