Oh, my God it's Easter already! Well, it's just a short week away, anyway. Can you believe it? Easter is a great holiday. Like Christmas it has both religious and secular traditions. The religious aspects of the holiday are complex and philosophical, as religious concepts tend to be, and the secular aspects are whimsical and fun. But when you stop to think of it, the secular aspects of Easter, and Christmas for that matter, are actually based on religious concepts from an earlier time, concepts of an older, pagan religion that our ancestors practiced. (The word Easter is derived from Eastre, the pagan goddess of spring and fertility, of rebirth and renewal after the darkness and hardship of winter. The rabbit was her favored animal because of its reproductive abilities.) So in some ways the religious and secular aspects of Easter are complimentary, both aspects reflecting a belief in renewal and eternal life.
Of course, when it comes to Kiley and Mackey I am basically stressing the secular aspects of the coming holiday. It goes without saying that for preschoolers the concepts of the Easter Bunny, Easter eggs, and a basket full of candy are a lot easier to grasp than the concepts of the trinity and the resurrection. Try explaining original sin to a three-year-old. I'll leave their religious instruction to their parents where it belongs.
And so I have been talking up the Easter Bunny for the past week or so, getting my two charges primed for a trip to the mall and personal acquaintance with good old Peter Cottontail. It started off small with an offhand remark about maybe going to see the Easter Bunny next week. They didn't object to the idea though I'm not sure they fully understood what I was alluding to. "The Easter Bunny? Okay." Kiley was only two last Easter so I doubt she remembers a whole lot of detail about that event. Mackey was no more than eight months old and, therefore, remembers none of it.
Over the following week I kept the idea alive and growing in their pliant minds by repeatedly bringing up the subject and elaborating on what might possibly be done in the presence of the Easter Bunny – sitting on his lap, pictures, maybe a free giveaway or two. I used excited tones and expressions when talking about the Easter Bunny and that soon rubbed of on the little ones. It wasn't long before they were absolutely thrilled with the idea of going to see the Easter Bunny. They couldn't wait. It got to the point where I was using the promised trip down the "bunny trail" to elicit good behavior – "You'd better finish all of your lunch if you want to go see the Easter Bunny." – "Do you want to see the Easter Bunny? Then you'd better pick those toys up like I asked you to!"
Over the next few days leading up to the promised nirvana, it was all they could talk about. "When are we going to see the Easter Bunny?" Is it time to go see the Easter Bunny yet?" By the time the appointed day arrived, last Thursday, they were in an absolute Easter Bunny frenzy. Breakfast that morning was a fiasco. They were too excited to eat very much and, since it was I who had created the situation, I didn't push the issue. In late morning Uncle Time and I got them ready to go the mall amid their shouts of "Easter Bunny!" Mackey's exclamation was more along the lines of " 'unny!" but no less excited. It was supposed to be a warm day, which is why we picked it for our sojourn, but as we were stowing them into the car it began to pour rain. Oh, well. There was no turning back now. That would have resulted in an ugly mutiny, so off into the storm we went.
Luckily the downpour was short lived and by the time we pulled into the mall parking lot the rain had stopped and it was a warm and pleasant day. We piled them out of the car and into the double stroller, Kiley in the front and Mackey in the rear, amid expressions of excited impatience. Being a Thursday morning the mall was pretty empty, inhabited mostly by elderly people in jogging attire using the mall as a safe and pleasant place to take their morning constitutional. We headed straight for the Easter Bunny who had set up shop in the usual place, the open area in front Penny's. As we rolled down the aisle toward the Promised Land they could barely contain themselves, hooting and hollering with fists held high amid triumphant shouts of "Easter Bunny!" and " 'unny!" eliciting warm smiles from the elderly folks in jogging attire.
At last we reached our destination and it was sublime. They had gone all out and the display was adorable. A little, white-picket-fence surrounded the entire thing with pretty shrubs and tulips everywhere, and colored eggs scattered throughout. In the middle of it all, on a throne of great opulence, sat the object of our girls' longing, the Easter Bunny himself. I have seen many an Easter Bunny in my time but I must say that this was by far the best. No huge, plastic, painted, and lifeless rabbit head topping some flimsy and garish outfit here. No, this was done right. This Easter Bunny was dressed in an elegant coat with long tails, under which he wore a vest and a large, though tasteful, bow tie. In the pocket of the vest was apparently a watch (shades of Alice In Wonderland) for you could see the watch chain. His lower half was donned in appropriate, though colorful, pants and he wore a small top hat on his head. And it was his head that was the piece de resistance. No huge, plastic thing, for us, this rabbit head was perfectly proportional to the body and was covered with actual, brownish fur! The ears were long and furry with one cocked to the side as if he were listening to something. He wore a pair of wire rimmed glasses that sat comfortably on his little pink nose which twitched periodically in a very lifelike way. His paws, sticking out from the sleeves of his coat, were furry as well. If there was an actual, living, breathing Easter Bunny, this was what it would look like. He was spectacularly well done and absolutely adorable. At least I thought so.
As we wheeled around to the front of the display and the Easter Bunny, in all his glory, came into the view of the two stroller-bound celebrants, all shouts, cheers, and exclamations of excitement ceased. Silence descended like a storm cloud and reigned supreme. Kileys mouth popped open, and her eyes bugged out of her head as her face went as white as a bride, her expression turning from one of joy to one of blank horror. Mackey sat stunned into silence, a rare condition for her, and froze in a reflexive state of immobility, triggered by an instinctive need for self-preservation. I don't know what they had been expecting, but this wasn't it.
Being a Thursday morning, there were no other children in the vicinity, so all eyes were on my two as I tried to coax them into the full Easter Bunny experience. "Do you want to see the Easter Bunny?" Do you want to go sit on his lap?" There was no reply, just shocked stares. The Easter Bunny's assistant swung open the gate in the little, white-picket-fence as a gesture of welcome, and the Easter Bunny himself began waving and blowing kisses at the girls! Kiley stiffened. Then, to top it all off, the Easter Bunny raised one hairy paw and began beckoning to the frozen pair. At this, Kiley's mouth opened even wider, her eyes bulged even further, and "her face, at first just ghostly, turned a whiter shade of pale."
It was pretty apparent that there was going to be no Easter Bunny lap sitting today, but the assistant, hopeful to the end, tried one more time. "Come on girls, want to see the Easter Bunny?" Kiley began swinging her head back and forth in a silent and continuous negative, never taking her eyes off of the horror on the Bunny Throne. Mackey didn't speak or move a muscle, but the expression on her face left no doubt that were she able to break her paralysis and utter a reply it would be something along the lines of –"Easter Bunny? No, now's not really a good time for me. I'm awfully busy this morning. Besides, I'm probably going to be pooping here in minute or two and that might be awkward. Can I have a rain check? Maybe tomorrow."
"Okay", I said relieving their anxiety, "let's go to the Disney Store." The Easter Bunny's assistant handed me two pair of paper bunny ears as a consolation, but when I tried to put them on their heads they would have none of it. They didn't even want to look at them. As we rolled away from the scene, Kiley kept looking back, still unable to accept what her eyes were conveying to her brain. Mackey just stared ahead, quietly trying to come to grips with what she had just experienced.
A half hour in the Disney Store and a couple of small purchases of their choosing did wonders to restore their equilibrium, and some fries at the food court returned them to near normal. We then packed it in and went home. That was four days ago. The intervening weekend returned them to me with calmed nerves and a fresh perspective. Today they were wearing their bunny ears and bragging about how they had gone to see the Easter Bunny. I assured them that you don't have sit on his lap for the Easter Bunny to visit your house and leave candy. That seemed to please them. It will be another whole week before the Easter Bunny comes to their house and spreads his joy. They can barely wait.