Copyright 2005 by
Mr. Bunny’s Funeral
outside cat like Morris means that he often brings something home
from time to time. Many times in the last few months, I’ve
found remnants of his nocturnal activities on the front sidewalk or
in the back yard. Birds, mice, and furry bits of I don’t know
what are some of the less than pleasant remnants of his hunting
expeditions. Usually I bury it all in the small woods of my back
yard, sure to be away from our avid hunter so he doesn’t
resurrect his past victories. (It’s a hassle, yes, but how can
you stop his instincts from kicking in?)
So it was no surprise the other day, as I walked my dog Pepper, that I spied Morris traipsing across the courtyard with a larger than usual something in his mouth. To my alarm, it was a very much still alive bunny rabbit, a baby obviously, and Morris just kept motoring along. With Pepper at the end of a very taut leash, there wasn’t much I could do to stop him as Morris headed straight for the safety and privacy behind the bushes and then, just as quickly, made a beeline for the neighbor’s fence. I spied on him through the crack of the fence and he seemed delighted to put on a show for me, batting his trophy around, toying with the poor little guy before the final sentence was passed. I had enough time to go in the house and notify my wife of the gruesome show outside; we looked out on him from the bedroom window for a short time as we decided what to do.
But just that quickly, Morris decided to leave that yard and come back to ours. And where did he end up? Oh, in a bit of pride he must have had, he decided to bring his prize to our deck. Imagine how pleased they will be when they see what I’ve brought them! Yes, he brought the bunny up the steps and put him right outside the patio door. Then he sat back, as if to await our accolades upon his ability to hunt. But Mr. Bunny, as my oldest, Adrianne soon dubbed him, wasn’t gone yet; that was the part that made us all uneasy. I think it better to spare the particular details, so suffice it to say that the little guy just lay there, helpless as could be. My wife, always a true friend to animals, retrieved an old shoebox from the garage, insisting that, though it might be a lost cause for Mr. Bunny (and it sure looked that way), she wasn’t going to sit idly by and have Morris finish the job. By this time, my daughters had become aware of the situation and soon a death watch was established on the deck after Morris was herded inside the house.
If the girls had been quite a bit younger, say 7 or 8, I might have better understood their actions; after all, isn’t that what young children have done for generations, championing sick and infirm creatures, instilling their hopes and love in a multitude of lost causes, of lame puppies, of birds fallen from their nests, of motherless kittens, of lone eggs found in the grass? I could not have been more surprised and moved by their gentleness and willingness to ease the suffering of a lost little creature’s last hours. Adrianne always was partial to rabbits anyway, but their exceptional kindness touched me in ways that helped alleviate somewhat the mixed feelings I was having about our Morris. And with this coming in their middle teen-age years, where they are stereotypically supposed to be as jaded and distant and troublesome as possible, gave me pause, that perhaps, my wife and I had done something right in their upbringing. The girls sat for a long time on the deck, Mr. Bunny’s box between them at the table. Adrianne kept playing various musical ringtones from her cell phone; her explanation was that the music was to soothe Mr. Bunny’s last hours. I doubt that Coldplay or 50 Cent ever intended those music snippets to be used in that manner, and I’m skeptical about the so-called soothing effect this really had, but I appreciated that she wanted to be with him. They stroked his fur and murmured soft somethings only he could hear. This was kindness and love at its finest hour; I couldn’t have been prouder of my girls at that moment.
As expected, Mr.
Bunny didn’t make it through the night. We had a burial of
sorts the next morning. I led the procession, shovel in hand. Without
any pretense or conceit, the girls, acting as pallbearers, flanked
the cardboard shoebox, each walking in step with the other in the
traditional manner. At the burial site, Adrianne said the final
words, “He was a good bunny.” And then, very carefully,
they gently wrapped the cloth diaper that had cushioned him in his
final hours, around his little body before placing him in his final
resting place. Mr. Bunny was finally at peace.
Super Valu, Super Memories
Living out of state, I often read The Post-Crescent newspaper online. Despite being 1000 miles away and 25 years removed from my old hometown, I still try to keep up with happenings back home. So it was with much interest, and not a little sadness that I read the other day of the closing of the last grocery store in Menasha.
Ninneman’s Super Valu, known as Doering’s until about two years ago, had been a fixture in Menasha since 1962. Its presence on Milwaukee Street , a scant three blocks from my boyhood home, was a throwback to a happier time.
As a boy, my mother would often send me to Doering’s to get bread or milk or that elusive final ingredient to some dish she was preparing. (I often wonder if she really needed all that stuff or just wanted to get me out of her hair for awhile.) Whatever the case, I got plenty of exercise peddling those three blocks on my stingray bicycle.
The store, while small by today’s standards, was still a full service grocery, complete with a deli counter. To me though, its most appealing feature was that spin rack full of comic books- a good enough reason to visit often- provided I could elude the gaze of the shifty-eyed manager who didn’t much like kids hanging around.
Riding down Second Street , it was a straight shot to Doering’s. Of course, that meant negotiating the stop sign at Second and Racine. Crossing busy Racine Street could be, depending upon the time of day, a heartstopping adventure that’d give any parent gray hair. But through the intersection, in that last block before the store, was Racine Street Park . Today it is gone, having been swallowed up piece by piece by a new public library, a new police and fire department building, and a later addition to the library. But back then, the park covered a third of a city block and its landscaping provided much refuge for adolescent experimentation.
I smoked my first cigarette in that park behind some nondescript bush. Of course, I bought the fateful pack at, where else, Doering’s, in those days before political correctness and strict nonsmoking laws required you to look 27 years old to buy a smoke. They were called True menthols, with an innovative plastic hexagonal filter in each one. Why this appealed to me instead of a macho brand like Camels or Lucky Strikes, beats me. Of course those came later down the road as the coolness ante was raised, their smaller size easier to conceal on my person, but so much purer and deadlier to the senses. At that point in my life, I was kind of a nerdy kid, so maybe the “scientific” design was a selling point to me. But menthol be damned, I was smoking. And wasn’t I cool! Or so I thought at the time.
When I was in high school and driving a yellow 1970 VW Beetle, my girlfriend and I stopped at Doering’s one night to pick up a can of shrimp on the way to her house. What a couple we made- me from my Menasha blue collar, paper mill background…she- well-to-do, living in a modern part of Neenah, our much more favored twin city. Her dad wore a shirt and tie to work in an office, as if such class distinctions really mattered to us. Lisa had a craving for shrimp salad and, rube that I was, by this point in my life, I don’t think I’d ever even eaten a shrimp. It wasn’t something I’d find in my day-to-day meat and potatoes diet. That Friday night, we made shrimp salad in her kitchen and you’d have thought I’d died and gone to heaven. Man, it was good; I was so in love. (My girlfriend was kinda nice, too.)
how reading about the Super Valu closing should resurrect all those
memories. But that just goes to show how a simple brick and
mortar business becomes an institution (with a capital I) and helps
to make or break a town. I can’t speak for the other
residents of Menasha, that they felt the same way when they heard the
news or when they stopped for a loaf of bread one night and found the
windows dark and the doors locked. But for a child of the 60’s
and 70’s, who sometimes idealizes his childhood as a family
sitcom from TV’s golden age, the store’s closing ranks
right up there. No matter that the newspaper said the new owner
had “insufficient funding for operations;” it’s
easier to just blame Eddie Haskell.
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