Easter in my family was always a big, noisy, crowded affair so I was kind of freaked about our first Easter alone. No family around. It was just us two. So after a giant basket of compensation candy left by the Easter Bunny with a personal note attached, we went out in the yard for an Easter egg hunt.
The path through the woods that leads down to the pond is called the Fairy Woods (for obvious reasons, that’s where the Fairies live, duh.) It was there that during the egg harvest, Madi came upon what looked to the untrained eye (if you tipped your head and squinted a bit) like an old woodchuck hole right in the middle of the path.
“What’s this Daddy?”
“Whua, why that’s the Easter Bunnies House.”
“The real Easter Bunny?! He lives here??”
“Oh my gosh, didn’t you know?? Yeah, this is where the Easter Bunny lives. He makes the chocolates right here under ground. Shuh, why you think we bought this house?”
Of course, the real Easter Bunny wasn’t actually seen any more frequently than the Fairies, but it was good to know he was there. About then, (two months after her mother moved out) Madi started to have trouble getting to sleep at night. Now, Madi has always been a kid who needed a parent there in the room until she was out cold, and she still is. (no advice please. Loooong story). I lie down next to her until she is out, and then try to sneak out across the God damned squeaky floors without waking her again. Madi has bad dreams and a few issues about being left alone. One night, not long after that Easter save, she asked for a bedtime story about the Easter Bunny who lived in the back yard, and thus began a tradition that lasts up to today, the “Easter Bunny Story”.
Madi has a brain like mine, it’s noisy and crowded (concentration is a sacred art there) and it needs a narrative to quiet things down so that drowsiness can do its thing. So, nothing new about bedtime stories, but Easter Bunny Stories are different. They always start the same: “There once was a girl named Madi, who was best friends with the Easter Bunny, who lived in a hole in her back yard…” She goes to the hole and since she is not Easter Bunny size and can’t fit down the hole, he, the Easter Bunny, leaves a pink M&M in a tiny basket for her, which shrinks her down to Easter Bunny size. She walks down the hole, knocks on his wooden door, he answers, and the story begins.
Each one is an adventure improvised on the fly using my ‘mother wit’ and key parts of her day. The secret of the Easter Bunny story is that symbols and actions in the narrative are used to address the stressors of her day. The psychological loose ends are tied up, the fears are confronted and conquered, the anxieties are soothed, the unresolved questions are answered; the hopes and dreams are fulfilled. This does more than make her drowsy, it puts the bad stuff out of her head so she sleeps without an upsetting wake-up, and Dad does not have to spend his night siting around waiting for her to fall back asleep. If a kid bothered her at school, the kid is there realizing the wrong and apologizing; if she calls herself stupid over homework, she comes up with a brilliant solution to a problem; if she has questions, her and the Easter Bunny work them out together. She asks for, and gets, an Easter Bunny Story nearly every night. There have been almost five years of Easter Bunny stories.
The Easter Bunny looks sort of like the White Rabbit in Alice and Wonderland, but not nervous, and not white. He wears a waistcoat and glasses, has a great sense of humor, is very smart, but is often out of the loop, because he lives underground a lot. Madi is his best friend. Through the door there is a cozy dining room with a round table and a small hutch, where they begin and end their adventures with sitting down for tea and crumpets. His bedroom is just off the dining room and on the other side is a VERY LARGE kitchen where he makes all the Easter chocolates for all the kids in the world. Like Santa, he works all year for just one gig. Yes, he and Santa are pals.
Over the years we have discovered that he is quite a powerful little rabbit. He has many secret rooms and entrances, can create portals to far off places, change time, and manipulate nature. Adventures often include flying. He has a biplane, but usually they shrink down even further and ride dragonflies, butterflies, birds, milkweed, or pretty much anything that can get them airborne. Last night in fact, they worked out that now that the leaves are beginning to change, they can catch a dragon fly ride to the top of a maple tree, and if they pick just the right color leaf and jump on the stem until they hear a crack, one can swing around, place one’s hands on either side of the stem and ride the leaf down to the grass like a hang glider. (You get the idea).
There have been many notable adventures, like the time the kitchen blew up, the time they found a trap door at the bottom of the pond that led to another dimension, there was the time Easter Bunny got sick and Madi nursed him back to health, or the time they accidently ate a whole box of farting chocolates, once, they talked to trees, and they have made friends with, and rescued, just about every creature in the woods.
Sometimes I’ll take requests. Last year, there was a whole series of required stories about how the Easter Bunny found a girlfriend and fell in love (humph.) Oh, it was very romantic. She’ll sometimes invite friends from school who never believe her until they meet him, once or twice Easter Bunny has shown up at the playground to straighten out a few crack pots, and there have been a great many heart to heart talks over tea and crumpets. Eventually though, she has to go home for dinner, says good-bye and promises to return.
I used to dream of the day when Madi did not have to take up 45 minutes to an hour of my night just to get her to sleep, but now I wouldn’t do without it. And, my improv narrative chops are awesome. There is a good deal of regular talking and book reading as well, so it is exceptional quality time, but the last thing is always the Easter Bunny Story.
Man, I wish I could remember some of the better ones. Every so often I get on a really good riff and I am rewarded by a sleepy hand patting my chest and a, “That was a good one Dad.” I shamelessly reply, “Yeah, it was.”
Half the time she falls asleep during the story, I’ll hear her breathing change, but I’ll finish it anyway. Why waste a good story?
The picture of her looking down a hole, is a chance shot of the very moment of her very first peek down the now infamous Easter Bunny Hole.
Don’t be telling her there is no Easter Bunny, she knows better.