It may seem funny to us now, but I don't blame kids for being scared of the Easter Bunny. I still remember the first time I saw him. I and my brother were all excited about his coming. Our parents had set us up, tried to explain whole thing. We sat at the kitchen table. Then this giant white shape lurched out of darkness and thumped on the window. It was huge. With the ears it was bigger than any adult. Its eyes were enormous. I screamed and ran from the table.
When it was explained to me, I didn't like it any better. Why did the Easter Bunny have to come here? The next Easter, I complained and whined. I cried. I didn't want the Easter Bunny to come visit. Not here. Not in my home where I felt safe. My father looked quite disgusted. He became angry. My mom, filling her role, gave up trying to explain and took pity on me. Maybe not this year? she asked, looking at my father. My father looked away. I continued to cry. I cried until my mom promised to call the Easter Bunny and tell him not to come. This she did while stroking my head. It's okay, honey, she said. He's not coming. But I don't want him to come, ever, I stated. I knew that now the Easter Bunny knew where we were.
The next Easter was something my parents just did with my brother. It was decided I was not mature enough. I was just supposed to wait in my room until it was all over. I liked my room just fine because I had my Peanuts books and stuffed buddies, but it felt different, heated, stale, knowing that something was going on outside and I that I couldn't, shouldn't look or leave. Just going to the bathroom scared me as I was afraid I would run into my parents or, I don't know, something.
After it was all over, my parents did their concerted paternal best at nurturing me, by heaping shame and not at all veiled aspersions on me throughout dinner. My brother shone by the praise of his performance, but, to his credit, seemed a little embarrassed for me once he had gotten his digs in. There was no reason not to hate Easter.
School was not much better. During the egg roll I kept to the shallow end of the action, applying the schoolyard principle I had discovered and learned at dodgeball that seemed to work universally well for life: if you kept to the sides and acted invisible, you were safe a little longer than the idiots who ran up front directly into the line of fire.
The Easter egg hunt was the worst. Here you were outdoors, highly exposed. Easter eggs and god knows what other deadly traps were underfoot. Sometimes there were even dogs.
Somehow, I survived. Understandably, I hated Easter and the Easter Bunny.
Somewhere down the line, it was decided that I should have a go again. More likely, it was now established that introducing me to the Easter Bunny was good for a rise. So at the mall we went to his little hut. At this age I was proud enough to be goaded into not objecting.
The Easter Bunny had two assistants, older girls, who were rather skankily clad from Hot Topic. Their ghoulish makeup could not quite conceal that they were in the seventh grade. The blonde one with stringy hair seemed to sense my apprehension and gave me a look of concern. She held me close as though to admit we were all a little scared of the Easter Bunny. She smelled of Parliaments, pot, febreeze and Mike's hard lemonade. The way she held my hand was kind and genuine. Her fatter friend just snorted and rubbed her press on tattoos.
Eventually the moment could be delayed no longer. The Easter Bunny gestured for me.
I don't know who or what was in the suit, but it stank. He pulled me on to his knee and handled me like I was a ham. His other hand grappled my friend immodestly. Later, in college, I came to know what that smell was well. It was Jim Beam, Old Gold and days old cum. His breath echoed inside the hollow bunny head. It was wheezy and phlegmy like a flooded chainsaw. He asked the usual questions. I gave guarded answers. At the end of our interview he told me he was coming to our house. And: I'm going to put my eggs in you.
This was enough for me. The fiend had to be stopped.
I hatched a plan with my friends. I kept an egg from my lunch and sealed it inside a juice bottle mixed with water and juice. We buried it in the warm earth beneath one of the classrooms. It was an improvised bio-weapon. It would be ripe by Easter.
I don't recall if we had settled on a mode of delivery. Unfortunately, a rival gang of kids got wind of it, dug out the bottle prematurely and tried to use it on us. They thought that the weapon was intended for them and therefore they were justified in acting preemptively to avert terror. What I could not explain in the principal's office in my slightly stained clothing was the true purpose of the project and my sadness and apprehension that once again, this year, we stood naked and defenseless against a common foe.
Instead, the Easter Bunny came and went as usual, popping out of black Lincoln Continental in a hockey mask, distributing painted eggs and treats and brochures about home invasion.
I hated everything about Easter. I hated the baby chicks that some people bought and what they did to them. I know it was all symbolic, but it made me sick.
I never liked or understood the stop motion holiday specials where the Easter Bunny came to town, made kids strip and dance and then turned them inside out.
The school psychiatrist lead to a regular psychiatrist and liked her just fine. I didn't mind talking about myself. What bothered me was that thing coming into our home. Now, in addition to little pastel candies and chocolates, I had itsy little pills to eat every Easter.
My parents worried about my propensity to get up in the dead of night and walk around the house. It was really nothing to worry about. I wasn't sleepwalking. I was a light sleeper and it was good just to have a quick check on things and make sure the house was secure. This habit really paid off one night.
I didn't hear anything when I awoke. As usual, I walked around the living room, the familiar furniture still having the blurry patina of a dream. Perhaps I would sneak in some television. I was not sure at first what I was hearing, or if there was anything to hear. It was just around the edge of my ear, like a buzz that was there and not there. It could have well have been just my sleepy head. I stared at the sliding glass doors. They were unlocked. The sound bounced off them to my ears. Moaning. A woman moaning. It was my mother.
I edged towards my parents room. The horrible sounds grew louder. I could call the police, but it would be too late. I got a cleaver from the kitchen, the kind my father used to cut up whole chickens.
When I opened the door, it was him. And it wasn't even Easter, not yet.
I was just a little kid, but I wasn't stupid. I knew I only had one chance to save my mom. I had seen horror movies and Easter specials. I went for the neck.
The bunny head turned and screamed my name.
My father made it as far as the hall before collapsing. The suit front was soaked with blood. My mother screamed and screamed. I ran over to see if I could help him. My father's hand was at his neck, but I had cut good. He could barely speak. What he said was: I'm proud of you, son.
It was then I understood the true meaning of Easter and the Easter Bunny.
I'm a father now. Now it's me who pulls on the rabbit skin and stands outside the window with the little baskets full of eggs and chocolates, fake grass and broken glass.
They have to learn. To grow up. The world is terrifying and horrible, but they don't have to just take it. This is the gift we give our children, the only way we know how to protect them.