The little girl trailed her grandmother through the seemingly endless aisles of the department store. It was almost Easter, and the rows of hollow chocolate bunnies and overflowing pre-packed baskets spewing clumps of staticky plastic grass filled her eyes. The little girl was nearly five—just old enough to know that when a little girl was alone in a store with her grandmother, she could almost always work out a way to avoid leaving empty handed.
Where the toy department ended and the boring merry-go-rounds of clothing began was a shelf stacked as high as the ceiling (or so it seemed to the little girl) with stuffed bunnies. Bunnies just so happened to be the little girl’s favorite things in the world. And these weren’t any old stuffed bunnies; these were massive bunnies. They lay on their stomachs, feet tucked neatly under them in a very rabbity fashion. They had big, blue glass eyes and floppy ears with real white insides. The little girl dragged her grandmother closer, gazing in rapture at the pink, blue, yellow and brown (ick–who wanted brown?) explosions of fur. She chatted about them for quite a while, stroking them to show her grandmother how much she loved them. Her grandmother asked her which color she liked, and the little girl knew she’d won. With all the confidence of one who knows exactly what her favorite color was and would always be, the little girl declared, “Pink.”
Her grandmother agreed pink was a very nice color, and led her away.
The little girl was flummoxed. Usually her grandmother bought her things that were obviously so important to have. And what nearly five year-old didn’t need a pink bunny nearly the same length as she?
Easter passed, and the little girl soon forgot the bunny. After all, her birthday was in late May, and that was much more important than a day she had to share with her siblings. So, her fifth birthday came the way fifth birthdays do, with much excitement and lack of sleep the night before. All morning and early afternoon, the little girl begged to open her presents, but was reminded again and again to wait for her grandmother to arrive. Her grandmother finally came through the chain link fence and passed through the yard to the back patio where the festivities were being held, carrying a pile of presents, and a filled trash bag.
“Mom Mom, what’s in there?”
“Why did you bring your trash to our house?”
“Because the trash man missed my house and I’m bringing it here so he can pick it up from your Mommy.”
This being a very plausible reason (despite the fact her grandmother lived only a single house away), the little girl skipped off to eat hot dogs and cake.
When all the presents had been opened, the little girl sat on the patio, reveling in all the new toys she had garnered as her parents and grandmother sat in their vinyl patio chairs, watching.
“Here, pumpkin.” Her grandmother held out the trash bag. “One more.”
The little girl stood, but didn’t move closer. She eyed the bag dubiously. “What is it?”
“Open it, and see what’s inside,” her grandmother urged.
“I don’t want your trash, Mom Mom.”
“It’s not trash. Come see.”
The little girl edged closer and carefully took the bag. Her grandmother had never before tried to play a nasty trick on her, so if she said it wasn’t trash, it probably wasn’t. The little girl undid the twist-stick and fanned out the bunches of black plastic. Staring up at her with two beautiful blue glass eyes was the pink bunny. A part of her birthday that the little girl didn’t even know was missing suddenly fell into place, and it became the perfect day.
The little girl loved her bunny, which she ingeniously named, “Pinky.” Pinky guarded her at night, standing sentry at the foot of her bed. As the little girl became not-so-little, Pinky (ten years older and more than a little forlorn) became a backrest for long nights of homework and chatting on the phone. But, one day, the not-so-little girl decided Pinky no longer fit with her impending adulthood. Pinky was bundled up with outsized clothes and other childhood things and given to charity. The not-so-little girl hoped someone would find a bit of unworn spot to love in the tired body, but she knew deep down no one would ever see in the now ragged toy what had once been, and that her beloved bunny probably ended up in the dump. It was never that she stopped loving Pinky, or that even now she doesn’t on occasion wish she had her back. But, as with everything, the turning of time forced the not-so-little girl to relinquish her hold on the solid, real Pinky, and try and content herself with the memory alone.
And that’s what she did, and is still trying to do.
It will be four years ago next week that the not-so-little girl lost her grandmother. And she misses her every single day.