When we were kids, we woke to baskets piled with chocolate bunnies and brightly colored eggs on Easter morning, and the Easter Bunny always left our jellybeans in a tall, clear glass canister with a knob on the lid. I can still hear the light clinking sound the glass made when I took off the lid, and I can still feel the sensation of sifting through the smooth jellybeans to fish a red one from the bottom.
One Easter my brother and sister and I ran down the stairs, stopping short when we saw one of the festive pink eggs we’d dyed the day before perched atop the molding of the front door. I can picture that deep pink egg balancing on the white door frame like it was yesterday, and feel the laughter bubbling up inside of me as I pointed it out to my younger sister Sarah look look at the egg up high.
Once I found a tall glass canister that was very similar to the one we had when I was growing up. For two years the Easter Bunny filled it with the fruity candy for my own kids, until one day some small person in our house didn’t realize how careful you need to be with glass canisters, how you can’t plunge your hand directly to the bottom when it is on a bookshelf that it taller than you are. And so it fell on the floor and broke into two large pieces.
This year, Jack started to pester me in February about who was going to “host the Easter party”. About a week after Valentine’s Day he started to repeat the date, asking over and over where dinner would be. He said, “It is our turn. I want to see the cousins.” I was surprised by his enthusiasm, given that during the last party we had he opened the front door at exactly 8:00 and demanded everyone, “Go now. This party is over. Leave.”
And so we offered to host the giant Cariello clan this year – about thirty people between grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins.
The week before Easter I was shopping in Pier One, and I found the perfect decoration: a tall, smooth, porcelain bunny with a little red-checked bow at his neck. Like a crazy person, I rushed to the counter with Henry in tow, and excitedly told the bewildered clerk how perfect this bunny was, how he was going to look fabulous on our dinner table come Sunday afternoon.
As I loaded Henry into the van, I had the insane thought that the bunny might not be safe enough in the white plastic Pier One bag, that he might roll around and chip one of his cute little ears during the five-mile ride home. So I took my four-year old’s winter jacket off of his chubby body and wrapped the porcelain bunny in it.
(Readers, you don’t know how badly I wish I was making this last part up. Especially after seeing it spelled out on my computer screen.)
Luckily, he survived the trip home. I unwrapped him from Henry’s green coat and gallantly set him in the center of our long table. I nicknamed him Mister Bun-Bun—not to be confused with Henry’s cheeky version, Mister Bum-Bum, which he liked to shout with a snort and a giggle.
For days I screeched at the kids to get away from him, don’t touch him, Mister Bun-Bun is FRAGILE. I said mean things like remember the jellybean jar you broke and leave Mister Bun-Bun alone he is special and yes I know you were only four when you did that but still.
Alone in my quiet kitchen two days before Easter, I gazed lovingly at the bunny as I began to prepare the meal. Stirring the sauce for lasagna, I pictured all of us sitting around the table twenty, maybe thirty years from now. Daughter and sons, husbands and wives. New babies and toddlers and grandchildren. And at the center of the table Mister Bun-Bun would stand, regal and elegant. An un-aging porcelain figure in the midst of our changing family.
(I know. You don’t need to say it. I just might be crazy.)
A few days after Easter, I took down the decorations and dragged them into the basement. Glittery eggs, empty baskets with fake grass weaved into the bottom, and of course, Mister Bun-Bun. As I was sliding my beloved bunny onto the shelf for storage until next spring, something happened.
I heard his body tip over, and then I heard the unmistakable sound of porcelain cracking. And—I cannot deny this—I let out a wail. I looked behind the baskets and saw his head had broken off and rolled about six inches from his prone body. As I swept up the white chips from his shattered neck I thought to myself, there is a lesson in here somewhere, something about materialism and coveting and loving a holiday decoration more than your own offspring. (Also, it may be time for me to get a pet.)
But it wasn’t until later that afternoon that the real lesson occurred to me, as I stood with ten-year Joey in the kitchen and piled poor Mister Bun-Bun’s broken body into a plastic Hannaford’s bag.
“Hey Mom, sorry about that rabbit”, he offered nonchalantly. “I know you loved it.” I shot him a quick glance to see if he was making fun of me, but he continued. “Easter was fun, huh? I can’t believe how long Jack stayed downstairs playing with all of the cousins.” And with that, he swiped a few jellybeans from the bowl on the counter and wandered away.
As I tied the handles of the plastic bag together, I thought about how Jack really did do well this year, how he rode his scooter outside as all the cousins played around him, and when the college kids curled up on the couch for an after-dinner snooze, he joined them in a nearby chair. He seemed at ease with the crowd, comfortable with the noise and chaos and family of the holiday.
Carrying the bag with my bunny out to the garbage I realized; our family is already changing. And that’s a good thing.
Because these are the memories I’ll hold onto long after the glass canisters are broken and the porcelain bunnies are gone, memories of deep pink eggs perched up high, of my children nestling on the couch with their cousins, of my son with autism growing, reaching, and stretching himself to host the Easter party.