Sun 5 Nov 2006
at Oscar’s six month checkup on Friday, they asked me whether he knows his name.
i think i blushed. and foolishly, wishfully called out “Osssscaaaar!” in my sweetest singsong-y tone…which he flatly ignored. shite. all the “good mother” brownie points i’d been hoarding for myself like stars on a kindergarten chart went flying out the window…kerthump. um…he’s supposed to know his name by now?
i smiled apologetically at the doctor and called out again. this time O turned his head and smiled, beatifically – and a few little gold stars crawled back in the window, redeeming my motherly vanity. but in truth, i suspect O’s compliance was more a response to my voice than to his name specifically. it’s not his fault. i don’t call him by his name very often. if he could talk, Oscar would most likely tell you that his name is Bunny.
i didn’t plan this pet name for him. he was “BabyO” and “Little One” at first. then, as he filled out, he was “Muffin” for awhile, and “Pumpkin” and “My Sweet Baboo”…which devolved into “Boo,” and then the apt, if unfortunate, “Poo.” it’s not that i don’t like his proper name…i love it. but in discovering my inner mother, i’ve learned that this new, heretofore secret self thrills in singing tuneless, repetitive babble to her offspring all day long. and she likes the tuneless, repetitive babble to rhyme. nothing, sadly, in the English language – nothing whatsoever – rhymes with Oscar. so Little One-Son Muffin-Puffin Boo-Poo-You-Baboo he became.
and about two months ago, in the midst of one of the singing extravaganzas which will likely render Oscar musically scarred for life, the name Bunny came out. my funny, sunny, Sonny Bunny. it’s stuck. the rhyme is fun, and sweet, sure. but my affinity for the syllables probably goes deeper than mere phonetics. Bunny is a name that, for much of my life, i prized above all others. not for myself…no, “Bonnie” has been plenty cutesy enough, thank you kindly. but Bunny evokes a rush of comfort and tenderness in me…and was for many years the name of my most beloved.
for Oscar is not the first Bunny to grace my life. rather, this fine gentleman on the right, the blue, threadbare beanbag rabbit who is actually older than Dave and wiser – in the estimation, at least, of the child who brought him to life in her imagination and made him a confidante, security blanket and precious friend – than anyone…he was my first. he is almost thirty-three years old, and could use a right eye and some fresh whiskers. but he is, to me, still beautiful.
however, i hadn’t connected Oscar-my-Sonny-Bunny with Bunny my plush companion, or even noticed the fact that i – naming snob that i am – have utilized such an obvious moniker twice, until today. today, CBC radio’s marvellous Stuart MacLean unwound another story in the ever-ongoing Dave & Morley saga, about a stuffed rabbit named Bunny who comes to live with the family when daughter Stephanie is small and afraid of the dark.
i caught the word “bunny” first, and began mindlessly singing to Oscar. then Dave pointed out that the story was about a stuffed bunny, like my Bunny, and i pricked up my ears. but things didn’t develop quite as i’d expected. as Stephanie grows, her faithful Bunny goes everywhere with her…camp, sleepovers, even treeplanting…until, one day, when Stephanie’s off at college, Dave finds Bunny in her closet, left behind. unnerved, Dave takes to carting Bunny around with him for a few weeks until he too learns to let go. the Bunny is eventually passed on to another little girl who needs comfort from the dark. end of story.
i listened with tears in my eyes. tears of recognition, at first, because i am a sap. and as the story unfolded, tears of bewilderment. i felt bristly, defensive. how could Stephanie just leave Bunny behind? how could her father just give him away at the end? because i, of course, did not leave my Bunny behind when i went away to college, but dragged him with me, gave him place of honour in my tiny dorm room along with the empty Southern Comfort bottles and my dubbed tape collection (and my books, i should mention, in case my mother happens to be reading). i didn’t leave him behind when i moved further, either…out West, up North, to Korea, Eastern Europe. Bunny – who is better travelled than most people i’ve met – always came. to my marriage bed, and a couple of other beds before and after (avert your eyes, mother). by the time Dave & i got together, when i was nearly thirty, i considered meeting Bunny to be a rite of passage in admitting people to my inner circle. anyone who did not accord the proper respect to the deflated sack of bilious blue polyester, with his one sage eye, was not worthy of any great trust.
there is a great debate now in child-rearing circles about “transition objects,” as teddies and bunnies and security blankets are formally known. it is thought that perhaps the need for a transition object suggests a lack of secure attachment in a child…that having a “lovey” implies trauma and a poorly adjusted personality. perhaps. i suppose i can’t very well hop up and vouch for my own well-adjustedness after having just admitted that i slept with a blue stuffed rabbit into my thirties. but i can say that Bunny has been incredibly good for me. and to me.
when i was small and needed tubes in my ears, and a hospital stay? Bunny wore a bandage tied around one ear for three winters. when people moved, or died, and the constancy of change was too heavy and lonely to deal with? Bunny burrowed against my chest, comforting in his constancy. when i was angry, wounded by the injustices of grade school? Bunny was a safe repository for secrets and lamentations. i once threw him across the bedroom in a broken-hearted fury…but – due to his dignity, in which i believed wholeheartedly – he also deserved and demanded chagrin, and apology. in Bunny, i invested my best: his silent, one-eyed gaze was a lens through which i judged myself, and he was both infinitely loving and eminently, scruprulously exacting.
i dragged him with me into my adulthood because i couldn’t leave him behind. through loving him, a la The Velveteen Rabbit, i’d made him real to me – he was my childhood incarnate, but externalized. and through all the mess of my struggles to grow up and truly grow into my adulthood, he was with me, held to my chest when i needed him. he helped me keep loving myself at times when i don’t know if i’d have been able to do so otherwise, because – through him – i could still access and comfort the child within.
it was only when Finn died that i outgrew Bunny. it wasn’t just the staggering magnitude of the loss, but the nature of it that suddenly rendered the rabbit impotent, external. for the first time, i hurt in a way that had no connection to me as a child. Finn had made me a parent, briefly…and it was as a parent that i grieved. not for the remnants of any child i’d been, but the one i’d carried, held. no small creature in my arms could give comfort if it was only plush and stuffing. so i was doubly bereft…both of my firstborn, and of the lifelong sense of sanctuary i’d always found in the little blue rabbit.
but time is healing.
these days, Bunny lives on top of the bureau in our bedroom…no longer a tactile part of my daily life, but still present, still faithful. i pet his blue head now and then, and find benediction in that mild, familiar, plastic gaze. i am learning again to pay attention to the child within, and the stuff she needs…and i am grateful for Bunny’s ongoing readiness, and reminder. Oscar – who has his own stuffed bunnies but no transitional object of choice just yet – is the child i focus on most of the time, though. and i am deeply grateful that i get to.
i have been blessed twice with Bunnies. loving the blue one taught me, i think, a great deal about loving and listening to the boy one. i hope, even now that i seem to have grown beyond my symbiosis with the little blue rabbit, that i can remember what i learned. Oscar could do worse for a nick-namesake.
but we still need to work on the child knowing his real name.