May 2020

Vox

by Anna Goldsworthy

He is risen!

Keeping mum about the Easter Bunny

It seems important that Easter Sunday should somehow be different from all the other Sundays, so as soon as the children wake up I hustle them to the reserve. We may not be camping this year, but I have heard that the Easter Bunny sometimes visits local parks.

“What if the other children get them first?”

“Nobody else ever comes to our park.”

They descend upon the gully with the single-minded purpose of a SWAT team. I trail behind, incontinently dropping eggs in my wake.

“Mummy! There’s no eggs here!”

“Hang on a second. Is that something shiny behind us?”

Heads swivel. The eggs glisten flagrantly in the open grass; they do not stand a chance.

Fortified by chocolate, we sprint to the top of the hill, where we indulge in a resourceful game of hide-and-seek involving a single tree. This leads into a debate about whether the phrase I’m the best should be banned in our household and, if it is, whether I am the best is a viable alternative. Afterwards, we spread out the rug to enjoy a picnic lunch – or at least the idea of one. Just because I said it was their responsibility to bring their water bottles doesn’t mean it was. Overnight, both have cultivated a hatred of strawberries. But finally food goes into mouths, and I enjoy a moment of repose. In the absence of other embraces, I have developed a taste for lying on Mother Earth.

My suggestion of a post-prandial stroll is misinterpreted, and soon we are running very fast down the wrong side of the hill. Sadly, what goes down must come up, but by now O has eaten all his chocolate eggs and turned into a “bag of slime”. Just because I said it was their responsibility to bring their water bottles… As we climb back up, I explain that the secret is not to look too far ahead, but to think of everything as “a step at a time”.

The rest of the afternoon continues something like this. We leave the park a step at a time, without stopping at the drink fountain, even though O would rather die of coronavirus than of thirst. R has many urgent questions about human vivisection; perhaps this could be his next independent learning project. Back at home, we wash our hands singing “Happy Birthday” (twice), and they disappear into the garden.

I dare to congratulate myself on a successful approximation of Easter.

Immediately they rush back inside with downturned mouths.

“You lied!

“You said the Easter Bunny was real but it isn’t!”

A stray fist is waggled in the air. They are an angry mob of two.

I remind them of the Easter egg hunt that (just) was.

Scoffing noises. “Everyone knows that Easter egg hunts in parks are made by grown-ups.”

“You’re the Easter Bunny, admit it!”

“Tell us the truth for once!”

I hadn’t realised they were expecting yet more eggs.

“Let’s have a proper talk about this at dinner,” I ­suggest.

“What’s for dinner?”

I play my trump. “Pasta.”

They are temporarily mollified.

At dinner, nobody mentions the Easter Bunny. I wonder if they have chosen not to pursue this line of questioning, but when R finishes his bowl, he shoots me a cunning look.

“Mummy, are you the Easter Bunny?”

“Yes, are you?” O asks.

“Do you really want to know?”

“YES!” in unison, dogmatic as barristers.

So I tell them.

It is clear immediately that this is a poor choice, as their teachers used to say. O emits a bloodcurdling scream. And then, as if identifying the victims of a massacre: “What about the Tooth Fairy? What about Santa?”

“Do you really want to talk about Santa right now?”

“Oh no!” O clasps his hands over his ears. “She said, ‘Do you really want to talk about Santa right now’! That means he isn’t real either!”

R retreats to his bedroom for quiet contemplation. O makes a keening sound. It is too early for him: I see this now. I have struggled with anxiety this week, and now wonder if I’ve allowed this to infect the entire household, to the extent that it has exterminated the Easter Bunny.

I take O into my arms, and carry him, barely, into the bathroom, where I run him a bath. As I soap his back, I reassure him of the existence of other magics – the Big Bang, the miracle of human conception, parental love as the true source of chocolate eggs – but he remains inconsolable.

“How long did it take you to get over it when Baba and Pop told you?”

I wonder if I ever got over it. I’m still not thrilled about a godless universe.

“A while.”

I leave him sobbing in the bath and check on R.

“Are you okay?”

“Yes.”

“Do think you’ll keep the Easter Bunny going with your own children?”

He will not look at me. “No.”

“But I thought you loved believing.”

“The disappointment is too great.”

When I collect O’s pyjamas from his bedroom, I notice a small paper basket on his desk. It is an item of some pathos. He has covered its sides with hopeful pictures of Easter eggs; every square inch of it has been meticulously coloured in with pencil. Despite such dedicated labour it remains empty.

There is no shortage of chocolate eggs in this house; they are simply in the wrong place. As O brushes his teeth, I sneak over to the pantry and fill my pockets, and then steal into his bedroom to deposit a handful in his basket.

R summons me into his room to read The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius, which seems a sensible choice in the circumstances.

“You have power over your mind – not outside events. Realise this, and you will find strength.”

After O finishes brushing his teeth, I hear him return to his bedroom. For a long while there is silence, and then there is a gasp and a great peal of laughter.

“Mummy, come!

“What?”

“He came! He brought me eggs! You said there was no Easter Bunny, but there is!”

“Not sure how you managed to do that,” R murmurs.

“What?”

“Bring him back.”

“I guess people believe what they want to.”

Various Easter bunnies of my own flash before my eyes.

“I don’t think the Easter Bunny visited me,” R calls out to his brother. “Probably because my room’s too messy.”

“You’re very good at this,” I say, passing him a handful of eggs.

He smiles: adult complicity is now a greater pleasure than childhood magic. The eggs vanish just before O rushes into the bedroom to help find them.

“They’re probably in some sort of little box,” R muses, gesturing towards a little box on his bedside table.

“Oh my god!” says O, opening a little box on R’s bedside table. “The Easter Bunny visited you too!” 

He chortles with relief, and I take him back into his bedroom for his story. When R brings in the iPad for lullabies, we are astonished to discover a tiny scroll upon it, apparently gnawed out of a large piece of paper, tied with a skein of wool.

The rabbit has tremulous cursive writing and wishes to know whether O enjoyed our Easter picnic. It also offers a small portrait of itself in its “den”.

“There’s no way you could draw such a good picture of a rabbit,” O says to me, knowingly. “So you’re definitely not the Easter Bunny.”

R grins, switching the light off on the way out. O starts slackening into sleep in my arms, but then tenses up.

“Mummy, what were you going to tell me about Santa?”

“Well, darling, I’m really sorry to say this, but you know how we sometimes go and see Santa at the Magic Cave?”

“Yes.”

“I’m not entirely sure that’s the real Santa. I wonder sometimes whether it might be someone else dressed up as Santa.”

He laughs exuberantly. “I already know that! I’ve known that for ages!”

I kiss him goodnight and return to R’s room.

“I had that sketch of a rabbit already,” he confesses. “Sitting on my desk. I was actually trying to draw a rock, but it came out like a rabbit.”

“It’s certainly a very good likeness of a rabbit.”

Gratified silence.

“I’ve had doubts for a while, you know.”

I think we are both relieved that he knows, given that he seems to know everything else.

“Let’s try to keep O believing at least until Christmas,” he whispers. As I close his bedroom door, I can see the whites of his eyes, gleaming in the dark.

Back in the kitchen, I deal with the next step at a time, and the one after that. Then I make the radical decision to go to bed. First I check on R, who has again kicked off the covers. He is sprawled like a teenager, but his cheek when I kiss it is as sweet as a baby’s. Then I sneak into O’s room, with its slightly yeasty smell, as if he is rising overnight. He is sleeping soundly, with the Easter Bunny’s note clenched in his fist, tight as faith.

Anna Goldsworthy

Anna Goldsworthy is a writer and a pianist. Her most recent book is Melting Moments, and her most recent album is Trio Through Time.

May 2020

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