in fourth grade i had a little bunny named puffin. he had this super soft, fluffy, long hair that i would brush with a special metal comb to get the tangles out. i kept all of the fur that came out in the comb, intending to sew a little pillow and stuff it with puffin’s hair (strange?) he never seemed to mind these grooming sessions… he just sat still in my lap while i styled him, like he was at sally hershberger’s. unlike a lot of bunnies, he wasn’t afraid of people and enjoyed being held and snuggled up. he never “said” as much (he was pretty quiet), but i could FEEL how much he loved me… we were that connected, like eliot and E.T.
a few months in, we had to move his hutch into the basement because there were so many dogs in the neighborhood that would wander into the backyard (this was the 70’s when leash laws were apparently a lot looser) and bark at him and scare him. i was sorry that he couldn’t be outside all of the time, but, of course, his safety and emotional well-being were primary and i would race off the school bus each afternoon so i could let him out for a play in the grass.
the summer after fourth grade, i went to sleep-away camp for a week. i had a great time (it WAS in a woodsy area, but we slept in dorms - with toilets and showers - and i was indoors most of each day taking dance classes so it was NOT camping,) but i could not wait to get home to puffin. as soon as we pulled up to the house, i raced down to the basement to reunite with my bunny. he was laying stretched out against the back wall of his hutch. he didn’t hop over to greet me, so i reached in and grabbed his foot. to my horror, he was as stiff as a baseball bat… i could have used him to play whiffle ball with my brother. panic-stricken, i ran upstairs, wielding my bunny, to confront my family. to this day, puffin’s demise remains in dispute. i have always suspected that they forgot about him while i was at camp and didn’t feed him or play with him in the yard. they maintain that he only got sick the day before i returned and was perfectly healthy most of the week i was gone. since we can be pretty waspy in our communication, we haven’t revisited this devastating event in decades.
after “the discovery” i went into deep mourning. i wrapped puffin in a towel (he wouldn’t fit in a shoe box because he had rigor mortised into a pole) and while sobbing, dug a little grave for him under the pepper tree (his favorite shady spot.) i refused all help from my family, both because i suspected that they had something to do with his passing and because i felt it was something i should do on my own. and then i gathered up a handful of his little marble poops and some flowers from the yard, sealed them into a pickle jar and kept it on my bedside table for a least a year, until i noticed that the poops were molding or whatever happens to poop that is kept long-term in a jar. while my grieving process may seem unusual, i am sure that SOME culture, SOMEwhere has a similar poop-urn process, it just isn’t common in northern california.
so on this easter day, i am thinking of my sweet puffin (and my irresponsible family, who i HAVE pretty much forgiven) and sending love to all of the easter bunnies everywhere.
* i never did make the pillow because puffin’s tragic, premature departure happened before i collected enough of his fur… so i was deprived of that special memento…