Sunday, April 12, 2009

I Have Seen the Bunny, and He Is Me

Unusually large and unnaturally bipedal, they are outsized versions of the storybook characters and cartoon creatures of old, most prevalent in the land of parties and Magic Kingdoms. They count chipmunks and tigers, hound dogs and ducks in their numbers, these anthropomorphic animals adored by children everywhere who entertain no doubt of their living, breathing reality.

Every Spring at Eastertime, one of the more heralded members of this fraternity of fake fur ventures outside the confines of play to the gardens of the everyday world. Perhaps you saw one yourself this weekend, his stitched-on smile never fading as he awkwardly stood in a neighbor’s yard, surrounded by awestruck toddlers anxious for their one special moment with this mysterious annual visitor, this giant rabbit, this Easter Bunny.

I have always been a sucker for the Easter Bunny, and for all of his compadres. Donald Duck, Tigger, Goofy and Pooh Bear - for years I bought the illusion completely, gleefully posing for pictures with these charming fellows whenever the opportunity arose, never thinking, not once considering, the poor suffering wretch hiding inside his suit of stifling polyester. And then, it happened.

One lovely Spring, I helped to plan our neighborhood’s first Easter Egg hunt. Being the sort of person who never likes to ask others to do something I am perfectly capable of doing myself, I decided to play the Bunny. How hard could it be? Rent a furry suit and climb inside. Right? Oh, the naivete.

Tickled with my sartorial choice - for I had chosen a Bunny suit that I found quite fetching, complete with a colourful little vest, bright blue bow tie, and requisite cottontail - I had actually begun to look forward to the event. I mean it is not everyday when one is, without question, destined to be the star of the show. So when the big day arrived I happily bounced out of bed in anticipation.
My confidence began to ebb ever so slightly when I slipped on my rabbit feet. As large as cross country skis, I could see that these newly acquired appendages would make getting around unaided almost impossible. But a touch of real gloom descended when I pulled on my gargantuan rabbit head. Ostensibly, these costumes are meant to fit everyone, but it was quite clear that no one of my exact proportions had been considered during the creation of this particular cranium. If I was ever going to suffer from claustrophobia, this was going to be the day.
Barely able to breath, I could see out the darkly screened eye holes only when I stood as ramrod straight as a palace guard, and achieving this particular posture made my chin jut out at a rather irritating angle. It was at this exact point that I noticed the overwhelming sweet scent of fabric softener, which made me consider for the first time how many other human heads had been stuffed inside this rabbit skull before my own. And as I am a person who would never dream of renting a pair of bowling shoes because I find the thought of wearing “public” footwear more that a little distasteful, well..... imagining all those previous tenants of my big rabbit head began to make me feel just a wee bit woozy.
But, in for a penny , in for a pound, and public was waiting, so off to the car I went. I could tell by the none too subtle way The Songwriter was doubled over in laughter that this was destined to be an afternoon I would remember for a long, long while.

I lumbered into the grassy garden filled to bursting with children of all shapes and sizes and I must say that that I played my part to perfection all afternoon. Never saying a word, I shook my basket full of eggs, I hugged giggling toddlers, I bounced babies on my knee, all the while being gazed up at by these happy, shining faces with total adoration. Funnily, it took me hours before I stopped smiling when a camera was pointed my way and now whenever I think of myself grinning like a cat inside my giant rabbit head, I have to laugh. Once I figured it out, the freedom of actually sticking out my tongue or making a monkey face whenever someone said “smile”, was quite delicious.

It was an experience everyone should have at least once in their lifetime, although I am glad to say that other neighbors have been enlisted for this Easter duty in recent years. But as we gain empathy through experience, I am now unfailingly kind to those Disney ducks and Pooh Bears whenever I happen to be in their presence.
For I know that inside that festive attire there lurks a silent sufferer; a hot, nearly blind soul, standing tall, and balancing on feet that are way too big to count for much.

You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view... until you climb into his skin and walk around in it."
Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird