Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Goodbye, Bunny

We lived in Eugene then. I was the high-powered manager of the "Little Bakery On The Mall." Our mortgage payments were low, my salary was high, and I was feeling rich and magnanimous. My sister Joyce, on the other hand, lived back "home" in Illinois, with a husband and three kids, trying to make ends meet on one income. Their mortgage payments were high, because they took out another loan on the house about every two or three years. And she was struggling to deal with her chronic illness—rheumatoid arthritis.

My family shook their heads and "tsk-tsk’d" Joyce, because she couldn’t hold on to a buck if her life depended on it. "Champagne taste and beer pocketbook," and all that. But she was ill, failing even, and she desperately wanted to be with the family; and I missed her, and wanted her to be with the family. I made it my job to make sure she came out for a visit once a year. Bought her ticket. Lodged her in my home. One month every summer.

We had an extra bedroom. I went into a total decorating frenzy. I don’t know what got into me, really. I hate pink. But it had to be roses. Stenciled furniture. Rose-bedecked bed linens. Throws and pillows and pictures and rugs, all rose-colored or rose splattered. I wanted the room to call to mind the best, fussiest, most over-decorated Victorian Bed and Breakfast I could imagine. In a gift shop one day, "Bouffant Bunny" wiggled her little pom-pom nose at me and whispered that she would fit perfectly in the center of the bed, among the pink and flowered pillows. Home she came. To Joyce’s Room.

And Joyce loved that room. Each year, a couple of weeks before her trip, I’d get notice to get "her room" ready for her.

That was fifteen years and two houses ago. We took Joyce’s Room to Portland with us when we moved north in 1993…unpacked "Bouffant Bunny" and her pals (by now she was flanked by a bear and two kitties, all formally pinafored in rose and green…) Patiently, they sat on the bed, waiting for the once-a-year appearance of their distant mistress. They saw her just one more time, before she got too ill to visit and then passed away, all in the space of a year. She was gone before we moved to Springfield. But I packed Joyce’s Room and took it with us. Assembled everything---Bunny, Bear, Kitties, and roses---in a corner bedroom that no one ever slept in. But it didn’t matter. It was Joyce’s stuff. I couldn’t even think of letting go of it.

Again when we turned tail and headed back north after Dad passed away, I lovingly packed the "Rose Room." That’s what I called it now. Unpacked it all again into an extra bedroom. Sisters, cousins, in-laws have tucked themselves under the rose comforter, laid their heads on the rose linens, tossed Bunny and her friends in a corner to make room for the humans to sleep. Finally, Bouffant Bunny and her pals were relegated to a closet shelf. They didn’t seem to fit anymore, into this room that had slowly morphed from Joyce’s Room, to the Rose Room, to the Guest Room. Last summer, when Joyce’s husband came out for a visit, I suspected it was time to retire the roses, the pictures…the memories might have been too hard on him. The "Rose Room" became the "Wine Room," with a new grape and vineyard motif, calling to mind the wine tours in which most of our guests like to indulge while visiting Oregon. Rose accoutrements were packed off the Goodwill by the boxful. Bunny, Bear and Kitties…stayed on the closet shelf. I couldn’t. Not yet.

Today, I found myself in the midst of a house-wide "pitch it" frenzy. Old bedspreads and linens that had filled an entire closet—out! Picture frames that had been in the same box since we moved in four years ago—out! Pre-school toys I had bought for my now middle-school-aged niece and nephew—out! I opened the door of the Guest Room closet, patting myself on the back that it could now glide smoothly without anything falling out. And there they were. Bouffant Bunny and her entourage, tangled and squashed and upended on that closet shelf.

All at once, I knew their time had come. There was no more life for them in this house. I’d kept them because I couldn’t let go of that shred of my sister. But, every time I looked at them, my eyes would fill with tears. Was this the way to remember Joyce, with sadness, even ten years after she’d gone? Suddenly, it didn’t make sense anymore. It was time to lay Bunny gently in the Goodwill box, and say goodbye. Let some other person, even a child, love her. Let her go some new place, where she could entice a smile instead of a tear.

I put her in the box. Still, it was like snipping out a tiny sliver of my heart, closing the lid on it and sending it away.


  1. Lisa............................



    I could have written this entry myself.  The item would have changed but the elements would stay just the same...except it took me twenty years not ten so you are doing much better than I did.

    Hugs and love.

  2. This is such a moving, well-written tale.

  3. Lisa, I understand and emphathize with this entry completely.

  4. That story made me get teary, but then I was full of hope at the thought that some small child might find comfort while holding Bouffant Bunny.
    What a wonderful memory of your sister, and how much you loved her.

    Thank you for sharing..


  5. Maybe the bunny soaked up some of those good memories and will pass the good feelings along to someone big or little who needs a few.


  6. Lisa, this is such a touching story.  I've done the same thing with the sweaters I made for my mother.  I can still smell my mother's favorite scent and picture her when she wore them.  I know what it meant to close that box and send it on it's way.  Pennie

  7. Lisa,

    What a great story about your sister, and about moving forward when the time is right.  I can relate...thank you.


  8. Spit and vitriol one day, and this delicate beauty the next. I like that in a woman.

  9. The depth of your love for your sister is evident by your gesture in setting a room up for her. It amazes me. I could see why giving up a memory of that room would be so hard. I like how you did it in stages; it probably softened the blow of change.
    :-) ---Robbie

  10. Heartfelt and moving.