A Hare’s Hare

Blogger’s Note: Grandma Pam has all of my old newspaper columns in a single three-ring binder at the Venjohn house (courtesy of my mom; I was never so organized), and this one was on top. It originally ran in the April 7, 1998, edition of The Pioneer daily newspaper in Big Rapids, Michigan. You’ll see I remembered my correspondence with the Easter Rabbit differently then, but the sentiment was the same.

For me, the anticipation the night before Easter was second only to Christmas Eve.

It wasn’t the candy and presents that did it (well, not only the candy and presents). Halloween was better for candy, and that kind of dressing up was more fun; birthdays were better for presents – I never got a bike or a rifle for Easter.

It was the magic of the evening, I think – a night when a rabbit might hop through your door on his big hind paws, nose twitching, ears forward for the sound of wee ones stirring in the night. Despite father’s joking, no bullet could touch this rabbit – the bark of a nearby dog earns little more than the flick of one long, white ear. He is The Rabbit – no bunny, he – the grandfather of a million magic rabbits; a hare’s hare in his Easter best, with a top-hat all his own, bearing gifts of chocolate rabbits, jelly beans and candy eggs.

Is he white? Certainly, though perhaps not always. Some call him by the surname “Cottontail,” which suggests he once was brown; “Snowshoe,” on the other hand, might suggest a change from brown to white.

He is white – this much must be true, at his age. He is extremely old for a rabbit – it’s been 15 years and more since I asked him his age in a letter Easter’s Eve, and even then he replied, in long quill strokes like my father’s, that he was “as old as his teeth were long.” I have long been a lover of animal lore, and I knew even then his teeth kept growing – his age could be infinite.

Long in tooth, long in ear, long in whisker – the signs of a wise, old rabbit.

I know he’s real – I’ve seen his tracks in the snow, which, unlike the tracks of other hopping night visitors, led right up to our back door, mere inches away from our sleeping boxer, Bonz, who no doubt lay dreaming of Easter eggs (her favorite seasonal treat – she would carry them around in her mouth all morning, with only the tiniest flash of color showing beneath her graying jowls, until finally she dropped and cracked it – then it was eaten, shells and all).

My sister, in more recent years, has said that she created the rabbit tracks outside our door in an effort to further the illusion that there was, in fact, an Easter Rabbit.

She expects me to believe that, with size 10 feet. Who’s deluded here?

On such an enchanted evening as the night before Easter, it was not always easy to sleep, and sometimes hard to remember the morning as a holy day.

Faith was one thing – this, my friends, was the Easter Rabbit.

The Easter tradition is more than just eggs and rabbits, of course – I’ve only recently come to see how much more. There was another, it is said, whom death could not touch, who came to us in the face of danger bearing gifts to all believers.

The wise old Rabbit knows him, perhaps; perhaps the Rabbit is but a small part of the magic of Easter – a servant who gives children a reason to jump out of bed at least one Sunday a year.

If you can believe in one and rise early on Sunday, perhaps you can believe in the other.

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