Tonight I had dinner with Bunny, (Which is short for “Bunny Feet”, which is part of a line of a poem Gram used to recite that went “…tired little Bunny Feet”. Anyway, don’t worry, I didn’t actually name my daughter Bunny, I’m the only one who calls her that) my twenty-year old daughter. My daughter is amazing, have I ever told you that? Yeah I know, blah blah everyone thinks their kid is amazing. Even when you are worried, or disappointed or fed up, your kid is still amazing because they will always be that little bundle of joy that has the ability to amaze you by just the sheer act of growing.
But my kid is extra amazing, I swear.
We have unique relationship, Bunny and I, since it was just her and I for the first ten years of her life. Because of that, she was a very responsible kid. When she was young (as in not in school yet), I used to have an art table set out for her. Crayons and markers and paper and scissors and glue, at her disposal anytime including when I was sleeping and she was mercilessly awake, and never once did she color on a single wall or piece of furniture. I did wake up one morning to her with a marker colored green nose. When I asked her about it she said, “Oh, Jesse did it.” (Oh yeah, she had two imaginary friends named Jesse and Bana. She used to hold the door open for them when we went into stores and restaurants, it got us some weird looks. I was kind of sad when she outgrew them.)
When she was 8, she started staying home from morning daycare and getting herself ready for school, then walking across the street to school (we literally lived in a house across the street from the school). She made it to school on time every single day.
At nine she volunteered to be a crossing guard, and went early and stayed late almost every day. She took her job very seriously, complaining to me once about how the high school kids didn’t listen to her when she told them not to cross. (She had an official vest and flag, after all!)
At age ten, she totally amazed me by telling me that while she was at grandma’s house she had googled places close by where she could volunteer and she found a position at a local nursing home and she signed up to volunteer after school and would ride her bike there from home. Ten! She spent hours at that nursing home, she brought in the cat once for a zoo day. She played games with the residents and got to know their visitors. She was trying to get enough hours to qualify for “Volunteer of the Year”, but she was beat out by someone who probably didn’t also have to go to elementary school and wasn’t ten.
Bunny has always also been very smart, and very creative. She always scored high on the standardized tests, always got good grades, and she can sing and act and taught herself piano and can play the saxophone. One of her teachers at conference night in elementary school beamed at me and said, “I think we’ve got ourselves a writer here.” The first time she signed up for a talent show, in middle school, and sang “Stand by Me” in front of the whole entire school, I was way more of a nervous wreck than she was. I would never volunteer to do anything in front of a giant crowd of people and I was like, “Whose kid is this?” Of course, she sang amazing and I cried the whole time because that’s what moms do when they are so proud of their kids.
When she got to high school she became very aware of the realities of life. She had some bad times with some bad people but what she gained was an amazing social conscience. She signed up for the LGBT club and she volunteered at Feed My Starving Children. She slept on a sidewalk in a box in the middle of winter to raise money for homeless youth. She started attending another local church and worked with the kids on Saturdays. She begged and begged me to let her “have a French kid” which meant a foreign exchange student but we didn’t have the room or the means for it at the time. She visited the humane society and played with the animals. She wrote and directed a modified version of The Grinch at her high school and she sang in the cantata every spring at the church where she was in the youth choir. When she spoke at her high school graduation, I cried again.
Once she was out of high school, she gave her time to run choir camps for young kids, and she signed up to answer calls for a sexual assault hotline. That turned into her taking training and becoming a certified sexual assault counselor. She marches for rape victims. She marches for Pride. She volunteers her time two weekends a month, working as a volunteer counselor on call, meeting sexual assault victims at the emergency room to be there for support, to help them find the resources they need, to hold their hand and talk them through it.
Oh yeah, and she’s also still going to college, and she was pretty PO’d when she missed the Dean’s list one semester by like .02%. So upset, in fact, that she contacted her professor to ask if there was anything she could do to gain it back. She works hard and she gets good grades.
She found a cat, skinny with broken and missing teeth. She took it to the vet to have the chip read. When the clinic called the owners listed on the chip, those rotten people said they said they didn’t want the cat. That cat was in rough shape, someone was obviously not very nice to it. (I, personally, thought they should be arrested) Salem, as the cat came to be named, was content to never leave Bunny’s bedroom for a whole entire year. Bunny paid for her medicine herself and nursed her back to health. She’s always had a soft spot for animals, and not too long after she moved out she also adopted a rescue dog named Phoebe, whom she had trained to be a service dog.
Bunny just started a new job. She works at a shelter for teenaged victims of sexual exploitation. It’s a safe place for them to stay while long term arrangements are made. It’s her first experience working with teens, and it’s funny to listen to her talk, but also heart wrenchingly sad. She is really enjoying her new job, though, and of course her work is amazing.
When she was little, she was my pal. My best buddy. We did everything together. My friend Alison made fun of me because I wouldn’t talk on the phone (You know, back when people did that) until Bunny was in bed for the night. I was focused on making sure I maximized our time together because I was also a single mom, which meant we spent a good 10-11 hours apart each day. When she grew into a teenager, we still did things together but also we fought a lot and it was a weird and heart hurting experience to be fighting with this little human who used to be my best pal. I truly believe that’s how it’s supposed to happen, though. You are supposed to be ready for your kids to move out when they do. (Even though you still probably cry about it all the way home from helping them move)
Tonight, Bunny and I were talking about my writing a little bit and I was saying how I looked back at some of my old, old blogs and how I really had my crap together back then, writing thoughtful articles, doing research and citing sources all over the place.
“I thought about re-publishing some of them,” I said, “but they’re really not me anymore.”
“Well if they’re about me,” she replied, “then you should definitely publish them.”
So this one’s for you, my amazing Bunny Feet.