It’s the Easter season, and since my childhood rabbit was my best friend, I have to decided to annually share the Story of Bunny on my blog.
I was age three when our eyes met, he was breathtaking. The most beautiful creature I had ever seen. We were about the same height, past two feet tall, yet not quite three-and-a half-feet tall. He hung on a peg board display at our small town Ben Franklin Store. He was there with a female rabbit beside him. She had on a skirt. They were surrounded on the display by small versions of themselves, but for me, I only had eyes for him. I wanted to hold him, but no one would take him down. He loved me as much as I loved him, I just knew it. He was mine, and we had to be together, forever. Tears flowed as I realized he was not going home with me. I stood there crying my heart out.
I remember the path to his display: Front door, turn left…walk to the last aisle…turn right…pass through the aisle-cross-section, there he was on the right side of the aisle, and out of reach. For weeks, each time my Mom and I were in the store, I would stand staring at him. Willing him to come down. Willing him to be mine. Willing him to ride home with me. Willing him to be my friend. Each time, leaving for home in drowning tears at our separation.
Easter morning arrived, and so did he. There he sat, the crowning treasure of my Easter basket. You can tell from the photo, at that point in my little life, it was probably the happiest day of my life. I named him Bunny, from the rabbit on the Captain Kangaroo Show. To this day we have never been far from each other. He carried my joys, tears, and on one occasion, my vomit. He came home from the cleaners sealed in a plastic bag. I was horrified thinking because of the bag, he couldn’t breathe. He got me through kindergarten, first grade, school shots, minor surgeries, the death of my dad, college, and I know he played a part in helping launch me into my adult life.
As a small child and an only child, if I rode in the car with a seatbelt, so did he. We painted and did art projects together, we ate together, and he patiently humored me, as I dressed him in my clothes. One summer I was learning to float at the city pool, when on a later trip to Galveston I cut off my floral tights to make him swim trunks, so he could learn to float in the ocean. When a wave carried him away from me, my dad rescued him.
A few years later, my dad died at home of a sudden heart attack, at the young age of 44. Bunny was with me. At 5am, awakened by my mother’s screams, I stood in my pink nightshirt and blue fluffy house shoes in my parent’s bedroom, clutching Bunny for dear life. In the chaos of the moment, together we slipped behind the drapes, and I watched through weaves of fabric as my father died.
Years later, Bunny and I went to SMU where he tortured my roommate by staring at her with his one eye. The other eye, long-ago lost in a playing accident. Because of a baggage weight restriction, he had to stay home when I spent a summer in England for an SMU-in-Oxford program. It was a shock to my mother when she saw him sitting alone in my room, left behind for the first time. It was only temporary!
In many ways Bunny established a trajectory in my life. I am certain my bond with him is the reason I started my toy design company. One thing I always understood was the emotional connection–the bonding that can happen with a stuffed toy, and my designs created connection. No child, or person, ever remembers that someone bought them the most expensive toy, or the cheapest toy. No, they remember that they bought them THAT toy. The one they love. The one they connect with. The one that is their forever memory.
On this Easter season, I wanted to take a moment to tell you about Bunny, and share with you a few photos of the rabbits he inspired me to create for my toy line. He is the reason I design on a human form…and yes, Bunny is sitting right here watching me write this post. We will never be far from each other. I love him.
A few photos of designs from previous seasons, no longer available from the Phebe Phillips line.
Phebe Phillips was an only child that grew up to be christened, by the words of a journalist, the Coco Chanel of the toy world. Her designs sold in Neiman Marcus Stores for twenty-six-years, as well as FAO Schwarz, I-Magnin, Jacobson’s, Victoria Secret, high-end boutiques, and a separate line created for all Michael’s Stores. For seventeen years, her rabbits decorated The White House for the annual Easter Egg Roll. Her client list includes many celebrity names you would recognize. The line is no longer available due to a harsh government regulation (read here) “What Happened to the Toys”.
From her creativity, approximately $1,200,000 has been raised for charity. Piper the Puppy is her creation used by individual chapters of the American Red Cross.
Currently, Phebe works daily on short stories or poetry or illustrations bringing her characters to life so they may live on through story books and eBooks. The first book titled, Why Me? Positive Verse for Loss and Sadness will be available on all platforms this coming August.
Also published on Medium.