Two rabbits, sixty-years apart!
I recently painted a picture of my granddaughter’s pet rabbit named Thumper. When I showed the draft to my friend, her comment stopped me in my tracks. “Does the bunny remind you of Sooty?”
Sooty was a pet rabbit I owned at around the age of ten. I wrote a vignette on that experience when I attended a memoir writing class, and eventually included the segment in my memoir Two Decades of Diapers describing the twenty years I parented grandkids with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. Upon reading the vignette to the members of the memoir class, I was embarrassed by their silence which I mistakenly took for disinterest. However, I quickly discovered their hush was due to shock over the gory details of my anecdote. Following, is that vignette taken from my memoir Two Decades of Diapers available from AMAZON.
Sooty, my pet rabbit, by Barbara Studham
The following vignette was originally printed in the copyrighted memoir Two Decades of Diapers,
by Barbara Studham. Available from AMAZON.
As a kid, I was not keen on schedules, but every Saturday would see me up and out by 7:00 am, cycling like crazy to the local farm to purchase fresh straw for my rabbit.
“Bring a bigger bag next time,” the farmer would urge while watching me stuff handfuls into my school satchel.
“I will,” I always promised then, throwing the bag over my shoulder, I would cycle as recklessly home, run to the back yard, and unload the straw.
“Look, Sooty, this is for you,” I would squeal as he nervously backed away.
Sooty had belonged to a neighbor who no longer wanted the bother of his upkeep. “He comes with a hutch,” she had explained to my mother, who sighed and shook her head.
“No thanks, Mrs Pond. I don’t need a rabbit,” Mom had muttered then, nodding toward me, added, “I have enough trouble with this one.”
“But, Mom, he’s so beautiful!” I gasped. “Please can we have him, Mom? I promise to look after him!”
After several hours of my pleading and empty promises, Mom finally relented and so I raced to my back yard where my neighbor was working in her yard.
“Mrs. Pond! Mrs. Pond!” I yelled over the fence, “Mom said—yes—I can have the rabbit!”
Her smile widened. “Here you go then.” She picked Sooty up in his cage and handed it to me. “I’ve got a sack of straw in the garage. I’ll get it for you.”
As she passed the hutch over the fence and into my eager hands, I thought I would burst with excitement. I looked around for the perfect place to display him, like an award I had received for reaching the age of ten and therefore deserving of a rabbit. But, as I scanned the yard, I heard the living room window open and my Mom yell.
“He’s your responsibility, now!”
“I know Mom,” I called, having no idea what responsibility meant.
For the next year or so, I groomed and petted Sooty, changed his straw, and with every opportunity showed him off to the neighborhood kids. They envied my having a rabbit with soft, shiny black fur, a bobbing tail, and sharp appealing eyes. I delighted in their arguing over who would hold him next, feeling much older than my years as I made them line up to take a turn. I truly loved Sooty and knew he loved me.
Then, one Saturday, my uncle came to visit. When he arrived, I was in the garden cleaning Sooty’s hutch, and feeding him fresh lettuce leaves I had stolen from my Dad’s garden. I noticed my mom standing a way off watching me. She had recently complained over the cost of Sooty’s upkeep so I intuitively sensed danger, but was surprised when she calmly turned and walked back inside the house. When convinced Sooty was clean and fed, I gave him one last kiss, locked his cage, and headed off to play.
“Be back at one for lunch,” my Mother shrieked from the kitchen window.
“I will Mom!” I yelled back, running as fast as my legs would take me to avoid being grabbed by the long-legged spiders inhabiting the high, green, privet hedge that surrounded our house. “I promise!”
So, at one o’clock I was back home, sitting at the table, innocently swinging my legs waiting for lunch to be served, but noticed the table was only set for one. Hearing my mother, sister, and uncle in the kitchen whispering and giggling, I called, “Isn’t anyone else having lunch?”
“Nope, only you,” called Mom, bringing in a large bowl of steaming stew and setting it down before me. “Eat up while it’s hot.”
After my busy morning, I was hungry and so tucked into the stew but, after a spoonful, muttered, “It tastes funny.” I glanced at my mom and uncle who were standing in the kitchen doorway smirking. I sensed something was up, but I was too afraid of my mom to refuse to finish my meal, so downed the whole bowl, and then ran back outside to play.
Later that evening when my uncle had left and I lay on my bed exhausted from play, my sister came to my room. “I have a secret to tell you,” she murmured enticingly, and leaned in. She whispered in my ear.
Startled by her words I jumped up, raced downstairs, and out to my rabbit’s hutch, but Sooty was gone.
“Sooty, where are you?” I cried. I frantically searched the garden, all the time calling his name. “Sooty, Sooty, where are you?” But, there was not a murmur, nor a squeak. I ran back inside.
“Mom! Mom! Do you know where Sooty is?” I cried, hoping my sister’s revelation was a lie.
But, when I saw my Mom’s expression, I knew it was true. Mom had asked my uncle to kill Sooty, skin him, and prepare him for the stew.
My heart died. “Mom, where is Sooty?” I whispered.
Staring defiantly, she smirked, “In your stomach.”
A CRAZY THING JUST HAPPENED! AS I FINISHED SOOTY’S STORY, THUMPER’S PAINTING FELL FROM THE WALL BEHIND ME AND CRASHED TO THE FLOOR! COINCIDENCE OR SUPERNATURAL? YOU DECIDE.
Sooty’s demise was traumatizing. More so were the twenty years I devoted to parenting four grandchildren with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. Two Decades of Diapers, and Fetal Alcohol Syndrome: The Teen Years, describe those years. Available from AMAZON, my memoirs are essential reading for anyone interested in learning more about the disorder.
Barbara Studham’s bio:
For the past twenty years, Barbara Studham parented four grandchildren, all diagnosed with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. Her two memoirs: Two Decades of Diapers, and, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, The Teen Years, describe her challenges during their toddler years and teens. She has also written fiction, including a six-book series titled, Under The Shanklin Sky, set in the seaside town of Shanklin, on the Isle of Wight. She is currently creating a children’s FASD picture book series Strawberry & Cracker, Twins with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. Now available is the first in the series titled The School Day.
Barbara Studham’s books are available from AMAZON.
Author blog: http://www.barbarastudham.com
FASD blog: http://www.challengedhope.com
Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/author/barbarastudham