There are certain items that bring a sort of nostalgia of our childhood. A favorite toy, story, or memory that we hold with us. A moment we can still recall vividly. Recently, as I laid my little man down for a morning nap, I became overwhelmed with emotion. I stared at this perfect little being as he snuggled a small little bunny and that sense of nostalgia consumed me.
From the outside looking in, it appears to be just that, a child’s bunny. Meant for bedtime snuggles, to provide a sense of security. But to me, it represents so very much more. That bunny is more than the character it represents from my favorite children’s book, Guess How Much I Love You. It is more than a security blanket. For me, it represents a special bond between my mother and me. A bond that, I hope, my son and I will one day have.
Growing up as a child, my parents were both teachers. They had the same schedule, for the most part, as my sister and I– school breaks, snow days, and summers off. It was all we knew. Then, one day, my mom was offered the opportunity to become a school consultant, taking her out of the classroom and allowing her to travel to other schools outside our small town of Indiana. It was an opportunity of a lifetime–one that she had to pursue. While it was exciting, I had little idea of how much it would truly shift my whole. My mom wouldn’t be home every day after school like I had been used to. We didn’t have FaceTime and Skype to stay connected. Instead, we had a Little Nut Brown and a Big Nut Brown– the two characters from my favorite storybook.
You see, my mom would read the storybook Guess How Much I Love You to me at night as a child. One day, before her trip, she left me the Big Nut Brown stuffed animal, the one whom represents the mother in the story, lying on my bed. The note attached, reading that she’d always be with me each night, no matter where her travels that week would take her. Packed in her suitcase, was Little Nut Brown, the child in the story. Each time she traveled, she packed Little Nut Brown in her suitcase. I snuggled Big Nut Brown each night she was away. It was our bond. Our way of being together, no matter how far away we may have been. On night’s when I would miss her, she’d remind me that she was right there, snuggled up next to me. I’d find comfort in that.
Our bunny bond didn’t stop once I grew up and graduated high school. How could it? I was moving away from home for the first time. So, as I packed for college, Big Nut Brown ame along. She sat on a shelf in my college dorm–watching over me each day. I never shared the story with friends, or felt the need to explain why I had a stuffed bunny sitting on my shelf when I was twenty years-old. Did I need to still snuggle it each night? No. But on the hard days when that math test just didn’t go right (and let’s be honest, with math, it never did!), or I was cramming to memorize those last key pieces of information for my final, that bunny provided comfort, reassurance. I could look at it and feel my mom’s encouragement. I could see her face, smiling. I could hear her voice, cheering me on.
Through graduating college, moving out on my own, and getting married, that bunny has been along for the ride. I’m not sure that there will ever be a day that Big Nut Brown doesn’t stay. Today, he sits in our son’s nursery alongside the book that started it all. And as I stared at my son that morning, snuggling his baby version of the same stuffed animal, I couldn’t help but be overcome by emotions. It was then, as a parent, that I realized that sometimes it’s the smallest acts, such as reading a story, that matter the most to a child. That one story, that one stuffed animal, has meant more to me in the past twenty years, than any other gift has.
So while that bunny will always hold a special memory for my mother and me, it now also serves as a reminder of the kind of parent I want to be. Twenty years from now, I can only hope that my son will look at his bunny, the one he used to snuggle to sleep, and be reminded of his mom. Not for the many things that she bought him, but for the memories that together, they made. The stories. The snuggles. The giggles. The playtime. The class parties. The ball games. Simply, the time we spent together.