Last spring I moved to a neighborhood where people do more than pay lip service to the idea of community.
Neighbors know and look out for each other (to the point where they might even leave an eggplant on your doorstep). We have a robust civic association that puts on well-attended, family-friendly community events like a Fourth of July parade, a Halloween parade and an Easter Egg Hunt.
My next door neighbors, T and S, are among the people who play the most active roles in making these events happen. They contribute countless hours of their time to help plan and organize.
As an engaged citizen, I contribute juice boxes, which everyone knows are the cornerstone of any close-knit community.
The annual Easter Egg Hunt was scheduled to take place today, so I stopped by my neighbors’ house last night with my contribution.
To my standard fruit juice offering I had added a bottle of fermented grape juice, which T and I proceeded to share. I hadn’t seen her in a while so we had some catching up to do.
About two thirds of the way through the bottle, the topic of our conversation shifted to the egg hunt.
“So do you guys have everything you need?” I asked.
“I think we’re all set. We spent two hours stuffing plastic eggs on Monday, so we have enough of those, we have snacks, and we’ve got juice.”
“Sounds like you thought of everything.”
“Well, except for one thing,” she said, taking an ominous pause and a large gulp of wine. “We don’t have an Easter Bunny.”
The rabbit makes an appearance at the hunt every year. The neighborhood teenager who usually dons the suit was out of town this year, leaving a vacancy at a key position in the lineup.
T said, “We were hoping maybe a kid who needed some community service hours would do it.”
Any job that’s described in terms a parole officer would use is bound to be a plum assignment. My wine certainly felt that way, because it took over the talking and said, “I’ll do it.”
“Really?” T said. “You don’t have to, you know.”
This did not deter the wine, which kept on talking and said, “Oh, I’ve done time in an animal suit before, so it’s really no big deal.” And then it got to bragging about my stints several years ago as a mascot in a major college football bowl game. “I’ve conducted marching bands on national television and done a few commercials,” it said.
My spoken resume impressed T to the point where she didn’t feel the need to call my references. I was hired.
The hunt was due to start at 10 this morning at a park a couple of blocks from my house. I showed up at 9:45. T passed the suit to me on the sly and I slipped into one of the houses adjacent to the park for my costume change.
On the upside, I discovered the rabbit outfit weighed a lot less than the cow suit I’d worn before; however, this suit featured the same vision impairment, oxygen deprivation and unlimited heat that came standard in the other suit. Since I could only see my feet, I knew I needed a handler.
On getting the head further situated, I also realized that one of the eyes had popped out. Unless the neighborhood was prepared to foot dozens of bills for toddler therapy, the suit needed some surgery. The neighbor whose house I was changing in lent a glue stick to the cause. Once re-adhere, off I went, amid much fanfare. Or so I’m told.
Few things polarize the kid world like life-sized holiday characters. Kids either love ’em or hate ’em. The sight of the Easter Bunny caused more than a few kids to burst into tears, judging by the sound of things.
Other kids adored me, which I figured out mainly by tripping over them. It warmed my heart to have a fan club.
And, as all famous public figures do, I also had a stalker.
One little girl grabbed my paw and started dragging me around the park. When my handler intervened and redirected me, the toddler clung to my leg like a barnacle to a boat. Meanwhile, my bum eye had come loose and was flapping in the breeze.
This increased the flow of oxygen slightly and the risk of inflicting psychiatric trauma on the kids exponentially. Even with this expanded opening, breathing was still a bit of a struggle so I spent much of my time tugging on the bunny head to try to align the hole at its mouth with my mouth.
After about half an hour, my tour of duty ended. No doubt the civic association was deeply grateful for my services. After all, it’s not every day that the neighborhood kids get to see a one-eyed, nose-picking Easter Bunny.
But I won’t be surprised if they ask me to stick with the juice boxes next year.