Goals in life should be simple and attainable. As a parent I have a few goals for my children. First and foremost is the goal to keep my girls off of drugs and a stripper pole. Almost any other profession will do. They can aspire to be a sock designer for pinkie toe amputees, I support that. But dear sweet baby Jesus, don’t let them dance on a pole for money, Amen.
My secondary goal is to avoid mental and emotional scars. I know this may be unavoidable at some level but I like to take a stroll down memory lane every now and then just to consider things that affected me in some way.
Sometimes the incidents were just a perfect storm for leaving an impression on a small child. For instance, one time my mother left me with a baby sitter while she went and got a haircut. She left with long straight brown hair and returned with what my mind remembers as a brunette Shirley Temple-ish short and super curly perm. To this day I don’t like short curly hair and my wife even feared I would leave her after the hairstylist got a little loose with the scissors. Of course this quirk isn’t anyone’s fault really but you can’t change how you feel.
Other scars are definitely someone’s fault. This memory starts with my sister getting a black fuzzy rabbit named Jack. My mother is probably reading this story and thinking, “Oh God where is this going?” You know…. And make a note, the poor decision was totally the neighbor. My mother was just as traumatized as we were I’m sure.
So one good rabbit deserves another and we get Jack a girlfriend. Rabbits can reproduce about every fifteen minutes so in no time at all we had lots of rabbits. The only thing that really kept them at bay was the fact that a male rabbit will eat the babies about half of the time because he knows he can’t afford rabbit diapers or rabbit cars at sixteen or five hundred rabbit weddings. Good call rabbit dad, nip it in the bud early.
Anyway, long story short, we had lots of extra rabbits that needed to leave. Luckily we had a neighbor who wanted free rabbits. He was interested in eating the cute little bunnies but there was no reason to tell the children. Just let him come pick up the rabbits and take them away to a happy farm. When you live in the country neighbors are trusted friends so the offer for free rabbits was a standing offer and the neighbor was encouraged to come “get” the rabbits whenever it was convenient.
That happened to be a day that my sister and I were playing in the backyard within sight of the cage. Our neighbor walks into the yard with a smile and a wave… and a burlap sack. We watch with curiosity as he goes to the rabbit cage and sets the sack on the ground beside a large oak tree. How can he possibly get all those rabbits into a sack of that size without them running out? He really needs a box or crate or something…
Up until this day I didn’t know rabbits could make a sound. It is a weird half-screech, half-squeal. The neighbor reached into the cage and grabbed one of the bunnies by the hind legs and it let out the squeal while he dragged it out. Then in a single smooth motion he pops the bunny against the tree and tosses it into the sack. I don’t remember ancillary details but my sister claims that my mother carried her inside quickly. I know I stood slack-jawed watching scared rabbits get smacked against a tree and thrown in a burlap sack. A redneck assembly line of squealing death.
Growing up on the farm I knew about the life and death and food chain cycle. We had a different pig every year with the same name, Spec. We had a cow that we would name Christmas. I had helped behead chickens and chase down their headless bodies. I knew what it really looked like to run around like a chicken with your head cut off. But the rabbit thing seemed awful. That asshole neighbor left my poor mother with no chance of lying to us and there was really nothing to be said, just an uncomfortable silence at dinner that night. I don’t know if it was mentioned much since but my sister remembered almost instantly. We laughed harder and longer than we should have but some stories are screwy enough they have to be funny.
So if you are feeling bad about not censoring yourself enough just remember that until you are pulling pet bunnies out of a cage and smashing them in front of the children/owners you aren’t doing that bad. It’s a low bar but my neighbor was a real piece of work. You’re welcome.
Underdaddy to the rescue.