The Christmas Bunny
By Paula DePaolo
Paula DePaolo, “The Christmas Bunny,” Friend, Dec. 1982, 45
The best part of our walk that day wasn’t riding in the shiny red wagon that Grandpa had given me for my birthday, even though it was lots of fun. And it wasn’t the snowflakes making polka dots on my blue coat and pants. The best part was when Mama stopped the wagon in front of Mr. Tanner’s pet shop.
Mr. Tanner’s window was full of frisky puppies. I got out of the wagon and pushed my nose against the cold window. The puppies ran to me and tried to lick my nose through the glass. Mama and I laughed.
“Oh, look, Cassie!” Mama exclaimed as she pointed. High up on a shelf I saw a cage of fluffy kittens. I waved, but they were busy chasing each other’s tails.
“What’s that?” I asked and pointed to a small ball of gray fur in another cage.
“I can’t tell,” Mama replied, “but here comes Mr. Tanner. Let’s ask him.”
“How’s my friend Cassie today?” asked Mr. Tanner, coming out of his shop. He brushed the snow from my hat. “Did you ever see so many little rascals?” he asked, chuckling. “Sure hope I can sell them all by Christmas.”
“What’s in that cage up there?” I asked, pointing to the gray furry ball.
“It’s a bunny,” he answered. “The last one too. Do you like her?”
Just then the bunny turned and looked at me with her big brown eyes. Her ears stood straight up, and she wiggled her tiny button nose. I wanted that bunny for my very own. “How much does she cost?” I asked.
“Just one dollar,” said Mr. Tanner.
“Oh, Mama!” I exclaimed, delighted. “I have a dollar in my piggy bank. Please, may I buy the bunny?”
Mama hugged me. “We’ll have to ask Grandpa first,” she said. “We’d better go now. It’s snowing hard, and we have a long way to walk.”
When we got home, Grandpa had supper on the table. After we’d sat down and he’d said the blessing on the food, I told him about the bunny in Mr. Tanner’s window.
“Eat your soup, Cassie,” he said. “It’ll warm your tummy.”
“Grandpa,” I said, “I have a dollar.”
“Drink your milk,” he said, filling my cup.
I love my grandpa a lot, but sometimes he just doesn’t listen to me.
“Grandpa!” I said in a loud voice. “Can I please have the bunny? You have Mama to take care of, and Mama has me, but I don’t have anybody.”
“It’s up to your mama,” he said as he buttered my bread, “but I would say no. It’ll just make a lot more work for me.”
So Mama said no. She might have said yes if she didn’t have to go to work every day. Nobody heard me say that I would take care of the bunny.
Whenever Mama and I walked to town to buy Christmas presents, we’d stop and look in Mr. Tanner’s window. Every time, there were fewer and fewer puppies and kittens, but the bunny was always there, and I was glad.
On Christmas Eve Mama and I walked by the pet shop one more time. All the animals in the window were gone. All but one—the bunny. She wiggled her nose, and I blew her a kiss. I wished for the hundredth time that Grandpa would change his mind.
Mr. Tanner saw us and came out of his shop. He whispered something to Mama, and Mama smiled and said she thought it would be all right.
“Cassie,” said Mr. Tanner, “would you take care of this bunny for me tomorrow? The shop will be closed, and it wouldn’t be right to leave her alone on Christmas Day.”
“Oh, yes!” I cried, and I quickly led Mama and Mr. Tanner into the shop. Mr. Tanner put the bunny into a small box with air holes and handed Mama a bag of rabbit food. I got to carry the bunny box all the way home!
“What in the world!” Grandpa exclaimed when he saw the bunny. “Didn’t we say a rabbit would be too much trouble?”
“It’s just for tomorrow,” Mama explained. “Cassie and I will take care of her.”
“I can do it all by myself,” I said.
Grandpa wasn’t so sure and just said, “Hmmmmm.”
I found a bigger box and put an old window screen over the top of it. I put food and water and the bunny inside. After she had eaten, I took her out and petted her and put her back until after supper.
Grandpa wouldn’t even look at her. Well, maybe he did once or twice—but just for a minute. He made a fire in the fireplace and set up our Christmas tree and strung the twinkly lights. Mama helped him hang the ornaments and strings of popcorn while I took care of the bunny.
At bedtime I put the bunny back in the box and left it by the fireplace so she would stay warm. Grandpa took me upstairs and tucked me in.
“Grandpa, can’t the bunny stay?” I pleaded.
But Grandpa just kissed my forehead and pulled the blanket up to my chin.
“Sometimes it’s hard to say no,” he said slowly, “especially to someone you love. Maybe someday, Cassie, but not now. Grandpa has no extra time.”
“I promise I’ll take care of her,” I called, but Grandpa was already downstairs.
Christmas morning I woke up before anyone else and tiptoed downstairs in my nightgown. The lights on our tree blinked on and off, and the room looked bright and sparkly. Under the tree were presents with my name on them, and my stocking, stuffed full and topped with an apple, hung from the mantle. Grandpa was asleep in his big chair by the fireplace. Our afghan lay across his lap. I tried not to wake him as I ran to the bunny box and looked in. The screen was off and the box was empty!
“Here, bunny, bunny,” I called softly, but she didn’t come. I peeked under the furniture. Then I searched all the other rooms, but the bunny was gone. I felt scared, and my heart went bump, bump, bump.
Mama came downstairs. “Cassie, what are you doing?” she asked. “What’s wrong?”
“The bunny’s lost!” I cried. “I can’t find her anywhere.”
Mama hugged me. “She has to be here somewhere.” But even with both of us searching, we couldn’t find her. “Oh, dear,” Mama said. “Maybe we made a mistake bringing her home.”
“What’s all the commotion?” Grandpa asked as he yawned and opened his eyes. “And why the sad faces? It’s Christmas!”
“The bunny’s missing,” said Mama, “and we’ve looked everywhere. What are we going to tell Mr. Tanner?”
Grandpa laughed and lifted the afghan. The bunny was fast asleep in his lap. “You tell Mr. Tanner that he’s sold another rabbit,” Grandpa said. He winked at me, and his whole face smiled. “I tried to tell her that she couldn’t stay, but she does have the biggest brown eyes, doesn’t she?”
I sat on the chair next to Grandpa.
“Cassie,” he said, “Grandpa forgot just how soft and cuddly little rabbits can be. No more pet shop for this bunny. She has a family now, and we’ll all help to take care of her.”
I hugged Grandpa hard, and Mama kissed his cheek. Later, when I opened my Christmas presents, I knew that I already had the best present of all.
Gospel topic: Christmas
[illustrations] Illustrated by Pat Hoggan