In my kitchen, sitting across from me at my 50’s green Formica table, is a gorgeous twenty-three year old girl. She has hazel eyes, perfect teeth, and long, thick, shampoo commercial hair which she has twice, during dinner, twisted into a knot on top of her head, then untied and let fall over her ears, neck, and shoulders.
The bottle of wine is empty; dinner was great. She’d like to stay longer, but has to work in the morning, so we rise from our chairs. I collect plates and silverware, step towards the sink, and with my back to her she says: “So . . . what’s with all the rabbits?”
That’s my daughter, Sierra, asking the question. This is the third time she’s come for dinner. Each time she sits in the same seat, across from me, where she can’t help but notice the small, solid chrome rabbit squatting in the potted plant on the table, and the five rabbit-related items on the shelf unit taking up half the wall behind me. . .
There’s a heavy ceramic rabbit bookend, using its butt to prevent four books from falling over onto his long upright ears; next to him is a greeting card with a nature photograph of a wild rabbit in mid-leap, backlit by early-morning sun; above the card, on the top shelf, is a nicely-framed four-by-six portrait of a very distinguished rabbit, sporting a pink tie and a green coat with wide lapels. Twenty-four inches to the left is a mock book cover, in a frame, titled: Adventures of Burrow and Thrash, featuring a selfie montage of two smiling inch-high rubber rabbits – one in blue overalls, the other in pink – photographed in the mountains, in an airport, and a boat harbor. Finally, between two pictures of Lisa and I, there’s a small cookie cutter in the shape of a rabbit.
It turns out there’s a love story attached to the rabbit thing, a story that shifted into another gear six years ago when I came across a greeting card with the cutest goddam photo of two bunnies peeking out over the rim of a purple basket, above the words: “Love happens. . .“ Then, inside the card: “. . . and when we’re together it happens a lot.”
This was exactly the sentiment that described what had been going on between Lisa and I since 1982, when we first met. Love, in every imaginable permutation, had been happening a lot whenever we were together, including the day I presented the card to her just after her fiftieth birthday.
It didn’t take long for the bunnies to become a thing, and never mind about the Great White Bunny King or the Secret Bunny Dance; Lisa and I have referred to one another as “bunny” so often and for so long that being called by our actual names now means one of two things: either someone has something important to say, or someone’s in big trouble.
It’s sick. It should be kept private, but if I’m gonna talk about rabbits I have to talk about me and Lisa and the bunnies . . . about the love, the fun, the passion, the music, the wine, the great food, world travel, fairy godchildren, and having a movie star over for dinner.
So when Sierra gets up to leave and wants to know what’s up with all my rabbits, I give it some thought before I say: “You don’t want to know.”
Except, I really do want her to know. I would love to tell her all about the super-cool shit Lisa and I have done – the adventures we’ve taken, the places we’ve been – where we’ve whipped out Burrow and Thrash, our one-inch bunny avatars, photographing them in front of the Leaning Tower of Pisa, Napa Valley wineries, Mexico beaches, looking out of airplane windows at clouds as though on a field trip to see God. . . and, in our most epic bunny avatar photo of all time, gazing upwards at the sight of a gorgeous display of monstrous organic carrots, moist and glistening from a recent automatic misting, in the produce section of the Austin, Texas Whole Foods mother store.
I tell Sierra she doesn’t want to know what’s up with all the rabbits because I know she’ll wrinkle her nose to hear that the whole bunny thing boils down to how happy I’ve been, how much bigger my life has become, and how much fun I’ve been having since divorcing her mom.
What’s up with all the rabbits? Love, sweetie: lots of it. What began with a photo on a greeting card has multiplied rapidly into dozens of items and hundreds of stories, all of it related to the continuing saga of your dad’s healing process: his effort to move from cynicism to trust, and overcome his bizarre discomfort with being loved for the man he is.