I watch my son, Kage, as he sleeps, his eight-year-old body sprawled in a careless flinging of arms and legs. He snores softly and I sigh in contentment as I look at him. I smile when I see the battered black and white stuffed bunny secured snugly under his arm.
“Hoppy” was an Easter present when Kage was almost three. He immediately became Kage’s constant companion. Hoppy went everywhere that Kage went. When Kage was playing outside on the swingset, Hoppy was perched on the sliding board or the nearest swing keeping watch.
It wasn’t bedtime until Hoppy was tucked in with Kage and sleepovers at Grandma’s house didn’t happen unless the bunny was in tow. Hoppy was on board every time Kage was in the car and he accompanied our family to the grocery store, to church, to family get-together, doctor’s appointments and long trips cross-country to visit family.
I have a picture of myself, Kage and his sisters with friends who were visiting from Australia. We had taken them on a sightseeing tour of the area when someone took a picture for us. There’s Hoppy – tucked under Kage’s arm, claiming his rightful place in the family.
When Kage had his adenoids removed and tubes put in his ears, Hoppy “oversaw” the procedures and the recovery. The following year, when the tubes were removed along with Kage’s tonsils, Hoppy was there to provide comfort. When Kage began exhibiting the first symptoms of what would later be diagnosed as Tourette’s Syndrome, Hoppy was there to help him through the rough days.
Last year, Kage had oral surgery at a hospital in an adjoining state. Hoppy was right there for the whole thing. Hoppy has been peed on, puked on, chewed on by the dog, covered in pizza sauce, and dropped in the mud – several times. He washes and dries quite well.
Kage wouldn’t even go to the bathroom without Hoppy and once dropped him in the toilet. While Hoppy was bathing in the washing machine, I set to work sewing up a “bunny pack” so Kage could carry Hoppy around on his back without worrying about dropping him.
Once, Kage forgot to use that bunny pack and Hoppy was discovered to be missing-in-action. We checked everywhere – church, Grandma’s, Granny’s, Daddy’s office. Hoppy was nowhere to be found. My little boy was devastated with worry over his special bunny.
He wasn’t the only one. I couldn’t stop thinking about everything Hoppy had helped Kage get through: Moving from house to house and to another state, EEG’s and MRI’s, bloodwork and surgeries, nightmares and fear of the dark, new sisters, and plenty of other childhood changes. I began praying that God would help us find that precious bunny that had been through so much with my son.
Finally, as a last resort, my husband stopped by Wal-Mart and asked at the service desk if anyone had found a lost rabbit. The lady at the desk smiled and told him “Yes, he’s been keeping us company for the last couple of days.” Kage had apparently left him in a shopping cart a few days earlier, and someone had turned him in at the lost and found. Hoppy had been hanging out at Wal-Mart while we worried over him!
Kage and Hoppy have been buddies, through thick and thin together. I know that Kage has shared plenty of secrets, worries and triumphs with Hoppy, and like the ultimate best friend, this bunny tells no tales. And he never will.
I have noticed over the last six months though, Hoppy stays home a lot more. He no longer goes everywhere with Kage. He has now been relegated to a more fixed spot on Kage’s bed – waiting for bedtime. The bunny pack has been passed on to a younger sister for her doll.
It is a bittersweet milestone for me. I watch my precious little boy edging farther away from childhood and I want to grab the bunny and force them both backward in time. But I realize that letting go of childish things is a rite of passage that my son will have to go through, and I accept that. I know that is part of growing up. In the same way I have graduated from being “Mommy” to being just plain old Mom, Kage has graduated from being my little boy to being my big boy.
Soon enough, I know Hoppy will be relinquished to the keepsake box I have, and my big little boy will be a young man.
I am just glad to see, though, that for now and a little while longer, Kage still depends on Hoppy. At least while he sleeps and he thinks no one is looking.