I got the impression he was wondering if I’d even realized that he’d come home late
One Friday, my son Avi came home late from school.
His face was red; sweat dripped from his face. Before I could ask anything, he told me he was on a hunt. The words came out in a jumble of English and Hebrew as he hungrily munched his Erev Shabbos pizza.
“Mommy, I have to go back out to search for the rabbit,” he said while rummaging through my fridge for appropriate rabbit fare. A conversation ensued with his older sister as to the most tempting rabbit food. “Carrots? Why carrots?” Avi asked. “Lettuce is better.”
In the nanoseconds I had before he bolted from the house, I warned him to be home in time to shower and get ready for Shabbos.
Busy with the last Erev Shabbos preparations, I didn’t have time to get many details about Avi’s rabbit hunt. From the few facts I unearthed, it appeared that the rabbit was white, grey, and beige. He was spotted “near the stairs.” As my neighborhood straddles a mountainside, there’s a plethora of staircases. I was therefore unclear which staircase the rabbit was residing near. It seemed that he belonged to a boy who lived in the building next door.
It was Sunday evening when more details trickled down. “Sorry I’m late,” Avi said after settling himself down. I got the impression he was wondering if I’d even realized that he’d come home late.
“I did notice,” I commented dryly. He looked up.
“We were searching for the bunny again,” Avi explained.
“How did you know where to look?” I asked. It’s a pretty big neighborhood.
“We saw him at the same staircase as last time.”
“So why didn’t you catch him?” I asked him curiously.
Avi sighed. Don’t mothers understand anything? “Because he keeps running away.” Avi confirmed that the bunny’s owner brings him food, but Avi was also under the impression that there was tasty foliage for the bunny to eat. It was at this juncture in the adventures of bunny that I learned he had a name. Fluffy.
“Oh, does Fluffy belong to an English-speaking boy?” I asked as I stroked Avi’s hair. When dealing with 11-year-old boys, it’s always good to keep any conversation going.
Avi shrugged and nodded. He uses English mostly to communicate with me.
“Why doesn’t the boy call out to Fluffy?” I wondered out loud. Do rabbits even respond to their names?
“Of course, he does,” Avi sighed. “But Fluffy doesn’t come.” I guess chasing after a runaway bunny is more exciting than talking about it.
But I was concerned. A street cat could hurt or attack a bunny rabbit. Other dangerous things could happen on the streets or under the stairs.
“Nothing will happen to him,” Avi reassured me. “There are no cats where he is.” He went back to his book.
No cats? In Jerusalem there are cats everywhere.
The search for Fluffy continued. Avi gave me terse answers to my annoying questions. I wanted this saga to bond us. Avi wanted the thrill of the chase, while maintaining his youthful optimism that goodness would prevail and boy and bunny would reconnect. But Fluffy seemed very independent and had no interest in being caught.
In the quiet hours before bedtime, I was itching to spend quality time with my son. Once upon a time, we’d snuggle together as I read him a bedtime story. He was the youngest of many siblings, my holdout at motherhood. I’m desperate to grasp on to those last slippery strands that attach me to my son’s childhood.
“Do you want me to read to you?” I asked as he played with his favorite toys. He was too wrapped up in his own world of racing cars and policeman. “How about we play a game?” He looked up, studied me, and declined.
I head off to straighten up my kitchen, a little disheartened. I think about the boy next door who’s playing hide and seek with his bunny, hoping to bring him back home.
I, too, am in search of my Fluffy.
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 775)
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