Words To Live By

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Of Boys and Bunnies

By Jackie Papandrew

My son has started his freshman year of college and appears to be functioning just fine without his mother. I'm trying hard to forgive him for that.

On the drive home, after we'd helped him move into his dorm room and I'd made enough of a blubbery scene to thoroughly embarrass my boy, I got to thinking about his first day of preschool. On the short drive to the school that day, he'd clutched his favorite toy, a stuffed bunny he'd inexplicably named Malcolm, and tried to be very brave. So did I.

"You're going to have a wonderful time!" I remember saying too cheerfully. He didn't look convinced. He kept rubbing his finger across Malcolm's head, something he did often to comfort the rather emotional rabbit.

"It makes Malcolm feel better," he'd once explained to me. I think it probably made my little man feel better, too.

I remember praying silently on that drive that he would like school and that the other kids would be nice to him and that his teachers would be smart enough to see how utterly special this blue-eyed child was, head and shoulders above any other kid in the school or any other kid in the world for that matter. Maybe I was a little biased. But only a little.

When we arrived at the preschool, he got out of the car with Malcolm tucked under his arm. I reminded him that Malcolm would have to stay with me. I promised to take good care of him.

"He'll be right here waiting for you when I pick you up," I said. I sounded like Mr. Rogers, way too cheerful.

For a moment, those blue eyes brimmed with tears. He rubbed Malcolm's head several times to reassure him, then placed the rabbit back in the car. I still remember watching, through my own brimming tears, as he lovingly strapped the little rabbit into the car seat.

"You stay here, Malcolm," he said, stroking the bunny's head one last time. "Only people can go to school. I'll be back soon. You'll be OK."

When we got home after dropping our son off at college, I went into his room and reached into the top of his closet, way back behind the boxes of video games and soccer trophies, and pulled out an old stuffed bunny. His ears are frayed now, and his fur looks matted; the seams in his body are visible. The top of his head is bare in several places, worn down to the fabric by a little boy's fingers.

"Hi Malcolm," I said to him, sounding again like Mr. Rogers. "Long time no see!"

I sat down on my son's bed and just stared at Malcolm for awhile. I rubbed his head several times. I think it made him feel better.

 
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05/04/2012 8:03AM
Of Boys and Bunnies
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