I remember one Saturday morning when I was young and Daddy was outside mowing the lawn. I was oldest of six children, and about seventeen at the time. We were all watching TV when he came into the house carrying something in his hand and he was smiling. When he opened his hand, we could see four tiny, furless bunnies. Their eyes hadn't even opened yet.
My youngest sister, four, had baby bottles for her dolls -- the good kind with rubber nipples -- and she excitedly donated them for feeding bunnies. Daddy said we should feed them on a two-hour, round-the-clock feeding schedule ... did he say TWO-HOURS? As in EVERY TWO HOURS? Oh man, we were glad it was summer and we had no school! Mama and Daddy each took a turn, too, so it wasn't actually as bad as we thought it would be.
After the first week, we had only two bunnies left. Muffy and Fluffy had died. We carefully put each bunny into a shoe box and buried it in our backyard. My brother, Tim, acting as minister, said a few words and we each in turn said "Amen" at the end.
After the second week, we had lost another bunny, Brownie, leaving only one. The last one, Thumper, was beginning to look more and more like a bunny. He/she was growing fur and its ears were longer. I don't have to tell you, I'm sure, this little bunny was catered to by the whole family. Daddy called the local feed store to ask when Thumper might be ready for real food. The manager told him when the bunny had teeth, he could have rabbit pellets. Until that time, though, only milk.
Back then, our family was big on tent camping. We had a huge circus-type tent because there were so many of us. We usually went to Chippawa Lake, Tappan, Seneca Lake, or Lake Hope once or twice during each summer. That year, the camping trip was to be in late August at Lake Hope. Daddy and Mama thought it would be the ideal place and time to set Thumper free -- "After all, he would be a grown rabbit by then and it wouldn't be fair to him not to be free." We would hate to see him go, but we all loved him and agreed it would be the best thing for him.
Summer passed way too fast. The camping trip loomed just ahead. Then the day arrived and all packed and car loaded, we drove to Lake Hope and what was to be a sad farewell. We knew our routine -- each of us had age-appropriate jobs to do -- and after we had set up camp, we took turns holding Thumper and saying our good-byes. There were even a few unashamed tears. Then we walked him into the woods and watched him scamper off into the trees.
Oh, I almost forgot to tell you, the first morning when we woke up, Thumper was sleeping in the tent with us. We were all so happy to see him! But after a second round of goodbyes and tears, we took him even deeper into the woods and that was truly the last we ever saw of him. That was our Thumper-Summer, a very special memory from childhood, one none of us has ever forgotten.
I hope your weekend is grand!