“Read it again, Mama,” my then two-year-old daughter would chant night after night at bedtime. And regardless of how tired I was, I would start over, vaguely conscious even then that my own little bunny would all too soon be running away as all little bunnies eventually do.
“’Once there was a little bunny who wanted to run away,’” I read.
“So he said to his mother, ‘I am running away,’” my daughter would chime in. She loved that part.
“‘If you run away,’ said his mother,” I continued, “‘I will run after you. For you are my little bunny.’”
Like most young children, Kara loved this heartfelt tale by Margaret Wise Brown concerning a little bunny’s fantasies about striking off on its own, assuming various identities and hell-bent on trading the security of a safe, toasty warren and a parent’s adoration for more alluring horizons. Becoming for example a fish in a trout stream that tries to swim away only to have its mother come after him and fish him out with a pole. My daughter would clap her small hands as the little bunny became a rock on a mountain, a crocus in a garden, a circus performer, and a sailboat in its frenzy for freedom, and laugh as the patiently indulgent mother followed in hot pursuit, morphing into a mountain climber, a gardener, a trapeze artist, and a steady wind to blow him back into her loving fold.
“Read it again, Mama,” Kara would command each time I attempted to close the book. Because, in truth, she liked the descriptions of the bunny’s adventures and the Mama’s chase much more than the ending where the bunny gives up and comes home. She has always been like this. In daycare, instead of clinging and pitching fits like normal children, she would wiggle down off my hip and toddle bravely off toward the playroom calling out names and dispensing hugs like a politician working a fundraiser. I would stand watching as the other parents labored to pry their writhing, wailing spawn from their calves, trying to convince myself this was a good thing. I had raised a confident child. Still, it was all I could do to resist casting a line and reeling her back in.
Fast forward 16 years and my daughter is mentally and emotionally preparing to hop out of the family warren in pursuit of the proverbial dangling carrot without so much as a backward glance, as all brave bunnies eventually will. Chomping at the bit to forge a new, improved, and more exciting life for herself. I am acutely aware–as we begin her final semester in high school and final varsity soccer season; as we start filling out graduation announcements and planning a celebration for family and friends–that my days as a live-in parent are numbered. As she studies for her final IB exams and weighs final college offers, I am also conscious that the story of The Runaway Bunny is everyone’s tale, a story of taking the “tiny, mad idea” that we could flee our Father’s all-encompassing, eternal Love and play hide and seek with him in a hallucinated world of which he—remaining thankfully, unalterably sane–knows nothing.
I’m OK with this, I tell myself, as I set about whipping up another nouveau, comfort-food classic—macaroni and cheese and tuna noodle casserole and my famous spicy turkey meatloaf—she is, ironically, rarely around long enough anymore to eat. I know I am really trying to assuage my own persistent sense of loss. A nagging regret that defies my growing faith in what A Course in Miracles is saying. Its take on the nature of our closest relationships and the enduring specialness of this specific relationship in particular I still think I want more than the perfect, all-inclusive love all the seeming fragments of the one child of God continue to pretend to push away.
Then, too, I catch myself watching my daughter sometimes with a deep sense of longing, wishing I could impart what I am learning in A Course in Miracles about our universal authority problem, the ego’s journey into an invented world wherein it continually seeks but never finds itself. A reenactment of the original journey away from the mind we embarked on when we forgot to laugh at the thought of separating from our creator, choosing instead to follow the ego away from the one mind and then forget we ever had a mind. Assuming bodies–intent on competing both for survival and divine attention and approval–and forging deeper and deeper into a dream of self-imposed exile from perfect, eternal, all-inclusive love. Cutting deals with others to get our needs met that never work for long enough while continuing to try to entice the ego’s God to follow us into this world and validate our illusions.
But I know we cannot fix or change or spare any of the inhabitants of this world what the Course calls their “curriculum,” not even the ones we literally bring into it. This comes as a particular affront to parents and yet, we can only choose love over fear whenever an opportunity to do so presents itself. We can only choose for the inner teacher of love, thereby teaching love, the inner teacher of invulnerable strength, thereby teaching invulnerable strength.
On the level of form, I find myself grieving what still sometimes feels like my daughter’s impending defection, even as I recognize the time has come for her to give this world’s illusions her best shot. We have outgrown my long fantasized ability to protect and control her and I realize that the faster she experiences all the world has to offer, the more quickly she will learn to resign as her own teacher, as we all eventually must. Still, a part of me wishes I could somehow intervene, somehow spare her the time and disillusionment that eventually propels us to finally plead for a better way.
Sometimes I still wish I could just convince my daughter to accept the ending to The Runaway Bunny, wherein the little bunny realizes it might just as well stay put and reap the benefits of maternal nurturing and the mother rewards him with a big, fat carrot. But I know too much about how this dream works now. Besides, that would require me to accept it myself and I am not quite there yet, still invested in this world at least when it comes to the fate of my little bunny as I swallow another spoon of baked mashed potatoes in her behalf and wait with my little dog for my daughter to come home.
Baked Mashed Potatoes
(Adapted from a similar recipe, instead calling for sage and cheddar that appeared in the November 2003 issue of Bon Appétit magazine, these magic mashers are guaranteed to chase away the blues of the ego thought system.)
- 5 large russet potatoes peeled, cut into chunks, and submerged in a pot of salted water
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter
- 1-1 ½ cups fat-free half and half
- 1 ½ cups grated Fontina cheese
- 1 T finely minced Italian parsley
- 1/8 t cayenne or to taste
- fresh ground pepper to taste
Boil potatoes until very tender. Drain. Mash together with butter and half and half. Add remaining ingredients (reserving ½ cup of cheese). Fold mixture into a buttered or cooking-sprayed casserole dish. Top with additional cheese and sprinkle with paprika (optional) for color. Bake at 375 degrees about 45 minutes or until lightly browned on top. For best results, enjoy while waiting for your children to come home.