Rabbit once hung over the side of my son’s crib and kept and eye on him while he slept.
Yesterday I found him sitting on the gate post of our old house. He’s been missing for, I think, around 5 years!
Our neighbour has just cut out an old hedge and discovered him within the branches. It’s lucky he escaped going up in smoke on a bonfire. He was green and brown all over. Moss and plant matter had taken root in him. I scrubbed him thoroughly and put him in the washing machine. Last night he was back in my son’s bed.
Rabbit is now more than 15 years old. I’ve always kept a look out for him every time we trimmed the hedge. I’d expected he was lost in the garden somewhere, but as the years went by had lost hope of finding him in one piece if we ever found him again.
‘Rabbit’ was my son’s first clear word. He was much-loved and acknowledged as my son’s best friend, but where Mungo (bless him) – my mute child with no diagnosis for his handicap – has always been very good and well-behaved, Rabbit has always been exceedingly naughty! They were chalk and cheese.
In his younger years Rabbit got into scrapes and was full of mischief. I found him loveable and tiresome in equal measure. However, Rabbit was at Mungo side throughout every hospital stay he had. He’d remain, clutched in Mungo’s arms as he went under anaesthetic and was back, lying quietly beside my son when he came round again. When Rabbit started getting lively and up to his old tricks it was a sure sign that Mungo was recovered and ready to be discharged to go home gain.
Rabbit was always escaping. He’d throw himself out of the car window while I was driving or he’d make hasty and secret dashes for the undergrowth on a walk. He spent many night sleeping outside in the rain in the garden, sometimes undiscovered for a day or two. We’d unearth him from dusty corners under beds, from tops of wardrobes where he’d taken a flying leap. Sometimes he’d jump headfirst into the toilet just for the sake of it.
My husband trawled ebay for other ‘replacement’ rabbits. These were known as ‘Rabbit’s friends and relations’. The day would come that one of Rabbit’s reckless bids for freedom would be his last. The thought of Mungo, crying for his lost friend every night, would become unbearable.
Mungo can pick the real Rabbit from the impostor rabbits at 100 paces. Even when I painted an image of rabbit on his tenth birthday cake he was unimpressed. He knows that there’s only one true rabbit.
One day he was gone. The boy who ought to have known which way he went couldn’t tell me where to look.
It was a year before one of the other rabbits was adopted. Perhaps the soul of Rabbit had finally migrated into one of the others. ‘Rabbit 2’ looked just the same (especially after many washes) and his character was naughty too. The only difference was the second rabbit knew not to go outside where he might get lost. He’d go on outings but he’d never leave the car.
Then one day for no reason we could fathom, Mungo took a pair of scissors and performed surgery on the second Rabbit. His side was sliced open and we found him turned inside out. Searching for the soul of the original rabbit we guessed. My sister sewed him up again and all was well for another couple of years. Until a second bout of surgery left him irreparable. No one spoke of Rabbit anymore.
Yesterday, after school, they were reunited. Mungo is now 15, as tall as I am, but still has a mere handful of spoken, barely distinguishable, words to communicate. His memory, however, is as sharp as a pin.
Today we have a much quieter, wiser, chastened rabbit returned and a teenager who smiled and exclaimed “Rabbit” as soon as he saw him.
He’s holding him again in his sleep.