In two books Margaret Wise Brown stole my heart.
The first was a book I bought called Goodnight Moon where a chatty young bunny tried to go to sleep by saying goodnight to everything he could see and couldn't see. After falling in love with this book, I read her opus: The Runaway Bunny. I read them both, regularly, out loud to my children, smelling of soap, just after the bath and before bed.
Both books are illustrated by Clement Hurd, and both have the same characters: A little independent bunny and his mother, who seems an afterthought in his life. The Runaway Bunny begins with a sentence uttered by the baby bunny: "I am running away." His mother, however, tells him that "If you run away, I will run after you".
It is in this simple exchange where every mother is given an insight to a child's mind: your beautiful child does not know how much he needs you. The idea is meant to be charming and quaint. Instead of charm, it contained a tearful truth for me: the children that were my whole world lived in a world of their own" bright beautiful worlds that were constantly unfolding and expanding. Worlds that would eventually lead them away from me.
My bunnies did eventually run away, and at first I did run after them. I was unsuccessful in being the "wind that would blow them where I wanted them to go", and I wasn't quite "the tree that they would fly home to". My bunnies ran away and left skid marks, punctuated with sharp reasons why they they couldn't stay: I was smothering them.
Looking afresh at the book, I see the mother bunny being a little stalker-ish...but I notice that the bunny she ran after was a little one: he wasn't eighteen or twenty or twenty three. I wish I could have seen that then.
Today I read the book to my little granddaughter, Harmony, as her mom (my baby bunny) napped. Harmony's eyes darted back and forth on the pages, and not being quite two years old, she quickly lost interest. I actually remembered reading the book to her mom, and used the same tactic to revive her interest. "Where is the Mommy bunny?" "Where is the baby?" It soon became a game, and we finished the book.
Seeing Harmony's eyes, so much like her mother's made me break down in tears. Harmony looked at the book, and then to me. She looked captivated by my reaction, and then hugged me, and puckered up her lips for a kiss. I couldn't believe it. So much like her mom, so beautiful and tender and so concerned that I not feel sadness. It touched a tender, raw place in my heart that will never be healed or whole until heaven.Today my heaven is revisiting this small book, as good and touching as Dickens or Austen. It is reading aloud to a two-year-old curly-headed girl who smells of soap and sits in my lap. My revelation of letting go and letting my own bunnies grow is felt all over again today. My tears and comfort (all over again) will be something I remember to the grave, and to heaven.