Don’t ask me to read Margery Williams’ Velveteen Rabbit in a clear voice. I can more than guarantee you that before I reach the end of the opening sentence, there will be a catch in my voice accompanied by the inevitable welling of tears in my eyes. Stuffed rabbits, or bunnies as we like to say at my house, hold a dear place in my heart. This is a tale of two such bunnies. The first is old and worn, and frankly hardly recognizable as a 1988 Fischer-Price Puffalump Special Edition. The second has yet to complete his mission.
Bunny Number One was an Easter gift to my four month old daughter, Kalah. I clearly remember purchasing him on the Thursday before that holiday, my payday. Money was tight and I wavered between buying her one gift, a lavender bunny nearly half her size, or several small rattles and a chunky board book. Perhaps it was his soft brown eyes, or the “magic” that still resides in his egg that called to me, but I ignored my usual philosophy that more is more and I chose the rabbit. Right from the start Kalah latched on to him. From four months of age through toddlerhood
she could be found with the thumb of her right hand planted steadfastly in her mouth and the fingers of her left hand firmly clutched to Bunny.
As Kalah’s perpetual pal, Bunny experienced life with her and regularly bequeathed his vast wisdom as they navigating the world. He was an expert on sharing, on taking turns, and on table manners. He always picked up after himself, said excuse me when he burped, and, like all good rabbits, ate his vegetables. Bunny, like Kalah, loved to play. He built block towers and put together puzzles. He soared to the moon on the swings and climbed Mount Everest on the monkey bars. He was a lover of nature and was always the first to sniff a flower or spy a toad. He liked to travel and soaked up knowledge as Kalah did when we visited the library, the zoo, or the Smithsonian museums. Perhaps one of his best attributes was his expertise in all things associated with bedtime. It could be counted on that Bunny always became incredibly sleepy exactly thirty minutes before lights-out time. He would insist on telling stories that more than often detailed adventures that he’d had long before he’d been chosen to be Kalah’s constant companion. Often these tales featured times when he’d slept all by himself without waking up Mother Bunny before 8 a.m.
Bunny was darned near perfect friend, yet he had two clear downfalls; he had very poor hygiene and a propensity to get lost. Because prying him out of my daughter’s clutching paws was often a trick, Bunny only got washed about once a month. Kalah would lovingly place him in a pillowcase, watch me knot the top, and then stand by the washer as it whirred through its gentlest cycle
until Bunny was once again sanitary for human use. She held vigil at the dryer, as well. Clean or not, Bunny was a wily critter who would often seek his own path. The phrase, “Where’s Bunny?” accompanied by a frantic glance from my tiny daughter would strike fear in my heart. Many is the time I combed through a toy box, searched through cabinets, and dived into dumpsters in search of Bunny gone rogue. And somehow, no matter how bizarre his journey, he always found his way back home.
Though Kalah gave up the thumb, and the constant need to carry her rabbit to every destination, Bunny was still there for her. He saw her through becoming a big sister and through our divorce. He waited patiently for her on her first day of school. He’s slept with her through every peaceful, fevered, or sleepless night. He’s been sneezed on, confided in and has soaked up tears. There is no doubt that he has long been “real” according to Velveteen Rabbit standards.
Bunny turned 23 this past March, which has to be something like 161 in rabbit years. He no longer tags along on my daughter’s every mission. He mostly spends his days in an honored sunny spot on Kalah’s bed, often with a purring kitty nestled near him. On the chance that he’s feeling spry he fills the role of sagacious Jedi Master to his young Padawan, Bunny Number Two; a recent EBay find. There is not much to tell about my daughter’s second Bunny. He’s spent most of his time in a plastic container atop her closet. Although he’s 23 years old, he looks as good as new. He’s never been clutched, or loved, or sneezed on. He’s never helped to build block towers, or been the keeper of great secrets. For now, he’s a stuffed rabbit in a box, lacking wisdom, and hoping for the day that a little boy or girl will love him and make him real.
Did you or your child have a special stuffed animal? Tell me about it!