Aunt Sophi’s house held many treasures; including frogs, mulberries, and the Easter Rabbit’s vacation residence.
I scoured the foundation diggings of Aunt Sophi’s new home for trapped frogs. I let my cousin Barbara Ann–five years younger–carry them in her plastic pail. A paper plate with a rock on it kept them from jumping to a premature freedom. My cousin Annie (same age as me) never cared to join my frog safari, but her younger sister, Michelle did.
Mom and I marveled at the fashionable 1958 ranch home. It had two bathrooms. Up until now, no one we knew, except Aunt Nellie, had two bathrooms. But it was the breezeway that captured my heart. It combined indoors and outdoors, creating the world’s most perfect room. Their backyard had a plum and a cherry tree, epitomizing advanced landscaping.
Aunt Sophi and Aunt Ann lived across the street from each other. Many years later, Aunt Mary K. (another sister, not Great Aunt Mary) moved from her farm to a house on the street behind Aunt Ann’s.
I spent the night at Aunt Sophi’s a few times and introduced some high voltage to their peaceful home. A giant mulberry tree from the neighboring junkyard hung over a fence and dumped its purple bounty onto Aunt Sophi’s side-lawn. I knew better than to eat the easy pickings on the ground, so I plucked fresh berries from the lower branches and shared with Barbara Ann. Annie walked over, accompanied by her neighbor Geegee, as I stuffed myself.
“Mary Barbara, you do realize you and Barbara Ann are eating bird poop and tiny bugs, don’t you?” asked Annie.
I examined the berries in my stained hands. I didn’t see any poop or bugs.
“Uh oh, look at the bottom of your feet,” she said.
It looked like I’d been stomping grapes. I wiped my bare feet against the grass, adding green stains to the purple. Barbara Ann hurried inside to wash up.
“Do you want to know a secret?” asked Annie and Geegee.
Of course I did.
“You have to promise not to tell anyone we told you.”
“I cross my heart and swear never to tell a soul what I’m about to hear.” (It later turned out I was lying.)
“We saw the Easter Bunny hopping inside the junkyard. I think he lives there,” said Geegee.
I stared at them and detected no signs of bamboozlement. (Cross detective off my future employment list).
“If you climb Aunt Sophi’s chain link fence and look over the wooden junkyard fence you can see the bunny poop.”
I scaled the fence and perched at the top. Uncoated M&M pellets littered the junkyard ground. “It looks like ordinary rabbit poop,” I said.
“Well, lots of plain rabbits live there, too,” explained Geegee. “They work for the Easter Bunny just like elves work for Santa. Look harder and you’ll see that some of the poop is bigger. Those are from the Easter Bunny.”
I scanned the ground. Annie and Geegee told the truth.
“Whoever catches him gets to have his basket of candy,” Annie added.
Candy was, and still is, my Achilles’ heel. I balanced on the top of the chain links, stepped onto a branch of the maple tree squished against the mulberry tree, and crossed over to another branch hovering over a rickety shed. I dropped onto a tin roof that buckled and threatened to cave in as it issued a thunderous protest. Annie and Geegee told me to be real quiet, wished me luck, and went home chuckling.
I sat on the hot tin roof for over an hour waiting for the bunny to hop by. I didn’t even see any of his helpers. The tell-tale roof announced my slightest shifting of weight, alerting my prey to my presence. I ignored the itches popping up all over my skin and didn’t move; I had a mission. Tiny sounds from deeper in the junkyard gave me hope that something was near by.
I planned to gently drop down on top of any rabbit passing underneath. When I caught the Easter bunny, I’d show him off to my friends and family, and eat all his jellybeans. He’d sleep with me so I wouldn’t be afraid of the dark, and I’d lay my head on his soft fur.
Aunt Sophi called me in for lunch. I didn’t move. Based on Barbara Ann’s purple hands and feet, Aunt Sophi deduced I was near the mulberry tree. My aunt surpassed me in detective skills. She spotted the top of my head on the wrong side of her fence.
“Oh my goodness! Mary Barbara, what are you doing? That shed isn’t safe, it could collapse any minute.”
My cover was blown. Reluctantly, I stood up and began climbing back.
“Be careful. Don’t fall or you’ll break your neck again (refer to Exposed – Carrot Attack).” Aunt Sophi held her arms out, ready to catch me if I slipped.
“I’m not going to fall,” I said, sidestepping along the maple branch. I dangled a leg off to demonstrate my climbling skills and scare her a teeny bit, then expertly lowered myself to the top of her chain-link fence. “I could climb this fence with my eyes shut.”
Aunt Sophi kept her arms outstretched.
I followed her into her kitchen where I was directed to scrub my hands. The stains were semi-removed.
“Mary Barbara, you could have been seriously injured. The junkyard is private property and it’s against the law to trespass. What were you doing over there?”
I broke my promise to Annie and spilled my guts. Barbara Ann listened in fascination and waited for her mother’s response.
Aunt Sophi was in a pickle, but thought quickly. “The Easter Bunny never goes in the junkyard. Annie made a mistake,” she explained. “She probably saw an extra fat regular rabbit.”
I continued scaling the fence and scanning the junkyard ground whenever Aunt Sophi wasn’t watching, just in case Annie wasn’t mistaken. I ate juicy mulberries every spring, but only after checking for bird poop and bugs.
It turned out that Annie and Geegee were privy to updated Easter and Christmas information that Mom neglected to fill me in on. This proved to be the beginning of a trend; my omission from the need-to-know-list of knowlege. Not at all helpful when I entered my teens.
Lessons learned: Check freshly picked produce before consuming. And be sure to keep my ears pricked open for neccessary revelations (although I still managed to miss them).
Now it’s your turn: Did you ever try to catch the Easter bunny, Santa, tooth fairy, etc.?
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