Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Old Gramma - A Short Story

I guess that life here hasn’t been that bad, although I really haven’t been around all that long. There are a lot of bunnies living here, all different sizes and ages. We have a big, fenced-in yard to run around and dig in, plus a big barn area with a lot of individual boxes and crates we can rest in and call our own. The barn is good to have whenever it turns rainy or snowy and cold outside. That’s when it’s real nice to huddle all together and stay warm, next to each other. The food is pretty good and there’s always lots of it, including a lot of interesting, tasty green and yellow and orange things to share and munch on. The only thing I don’t like is that at certain times the humans come in and take some of us away. We never see again the ones that get taken. One of these times always seems to be a while after the cold time, when the sun doesn’t stay out for long and the nights seem almost endless. In fact, it’s the time when the daytime and nighttime seem to be just about equal in length. I haven’t figured out what’s going on, but it always seems a short time later there is a new crop of babies happening and soon I have a lot of new playmates to chase and hop around with.

As I said before, there are young bunnies and older bunnies and baby bunnies and everything in between here. It’s great fun to play a huge game of tag when a bunch of us are just running around like crazy. The littlest bunnies try so hard to keep up and they do fairly well, but they just get so impressed with older bunnies like me who can run and zip around and change direction in a split-second. They say to me, “Josiah, how did you learn to do that?” when I do one of my jump-twist-spin dance moves. I tell them, “It’s pretty easy, why don’t you try it?” And one of the little ones always does try it, and most times they end up landing on their butts in a little cloud of dust, which makes everyone laugh and laugh.

There is a real old bunny here that everyone calls “Old Gramma.” She is big and round and white with red eyes. Some of the bunnies are afraid of her because of her eyes and they tell the little ones that she is possessed by the Devil, which really scares some of them. I can tell the humans don’t particularly like her either, but she has been around here for a very, very long time indeed, so I am told, and in some way she probably is everyone’s grandmother. She hops around slowly and stiffly, and my other bunny friends laugh at her behind her back and run past her really quickly, saying that she’s too old and fat and always in the way. I like to follow her around and I don’t mind hopping a bit more slowly so I can be near her. She has to stop and rest pretty often, and I always like to lay down next to her. I lean into her ever so slightly and can feel the warmth of her body and her slow, measured breathing and the soft thumping of her heart. It always makes me feel happy and safe to sit next to her.

Often she tells me stories of when she was a young bunny and all the things she’s seen and done. I listen carefully and try not to ask too many questions because I don’t want her to think I’m nosy or anything. She tells me about all the babies she had until she got real sick a couple of lightdarks ago and had to go away for a while. When she came back she was missing a lot of fur on her tummy and she didn’t feel good for a long time, and she said she wasn’t able to have any more babies. But she remembers all the little ones she had and all their names, and says she wonders about every one of them and hopes they are happy and well. Then she gets quiet and puts her head down on her paws, and I know that it’s time for me to leave her alone for a while.

But most of all I like to sit next to her and listen to her as she hums songs. She says the songs she’s humming she learned as a young bunny a real long time ago, and they make her think of her momma. I asked her if they were old songs, and she said yes they were – they were songs that have been around as long as there have been rabbits on the earth, and in fact they come from a time very, very long ago when the whole world was young and fresh and new. She says they are songs of abundance and beauty, of contentment and blissful joy, and all rabbits know them. I looked at her quizzically and said, “But I don’t know any of these songs, Gramma!” I always call her just “Gramma” because I think the “Old” part is kind of unnecessary. She smiled at me and said, “These are very special songs, Josiah, and I know this might not seem to make sense to you right now, but as you get older you remember them more and more. They become more important to you and you find that they provide a great deal of comfort when you’re not feeling well or the cold, damp wind makes your legs and back ache.” I’m not sure I understood all that but I did understand that she loves the old songs very much, and I love listening to her hum them.

One day when I was sitting next to her she started humming a song I had never heard before. It was the first time she had ever hummed that and I could not believe how beautiful it was. My ears stood straight up and I sat perfectly still while she looked out into the distance, humming this song. When she was finished I turned to her and asked, “Gramma, what was that song you just hummed? I know I’ve never heard it before, but somehow, I feel like I have.”

Gramma turned to me with her half-closed eyes and said, “Little Josiah, you are always surprising me. There must be an old rabbit living inside of you!”

I stood up in shock, my eyes wide and nose twitching. “There’s an old rabbit inside me?” I asked in confusion. I jumped up in the air a couple of times and spun around, looking behind me. I was anxious to see if there was any old rabbit behind me, because some of those old ones can be pretty mean and will try to bite you.

“Young one, there is no need to be upset,” she said with her crooked smile that I liked so much. “There’s not really an old rabbit living inside you, but rather the spirit of an old rabbit in you. He is part of you and part of your soul, and that is a very special gift.” She shifted around a little bit as one of her back legs started to hurt her. “You may not know what I mean, but someday I hope you will realize what a wonderful thing it is to have an old rabbit inside you. He will tell you things you need to know and help you make good choices. He will let you know when you are in danger and what you should do. He will help you find food and water when they get scarce, and teach you how to outrun your enemies whether they are on foot or in the air. His is the voice that you will hear whispering to you as you watch the moon come up over the hills and turn the mist and fog into a silvery blanket. He will laugh with you at sunrise as you dance and play in the autumn leaves, hearing them crunch under your feet. He will be standing next to you as you watch your first babies being born, and if you are very, very lucky he will live inside your babies, too.”

My eyes got big and round and I asked, “Did the old rabbit teach you that song, Gramma?”

“No, Josiah, he didn’t,” she answered. “I heard about that song from some other rabbits who used to live here but have passed on to the next world. As you know, I have been here a long time and have known many rabbits. With some of them, when their time with us is drawing to a close, I sit next to them so they know that they are not starting on their journey alone and unloved. They talk to me about what they were seeing and hearing. And you know what, Josiah? They all tell me just about the same thing, each time.”

“What did they tell you, Gramma?” I asked earnestly. “I really want to know about the songs.”

She put her head close to mine and whispered into my ear. “One night, you may be awakened by the sound of singing, of voices very far away, that will fade in and out on the wind. You will not be sure if you are dreaming or if you are really hearing anything at all. It will only last a couple of minutes, and you will try as hard as you can to listen, but it will just drift away and stop, and all will be quiet again. But it will be one of the most beautiful sounds you will ever hear. Then, a short time later, you will hear the singing again, this time a little bit louder. It may be during the day when you are alone inside the barn. The sun will come out from behind a cloud and a ray of sunlight will come in through a window and shine on your face and kiss your eyes with a golden radiance. The singing will fill your ears and make them feel warm. After that, you will hear the singing and the voices more often, and they will seem to get a little bit closer each time. You will also not feel like eating and drinking much anymore, and you will want to sleep more. You will not pay a lot of attention to what is going on around you, and you will just withdraw into yourself and your thoughts and patiently wait for the singing and the voices to come back to you.”

“What is going to happen when the voices finally get here, Gramma?” I started to get a little bit frightened, but I had to know about the singing.

“Well, little one, I am told that one day, the voices will be quite loud, as if they are all around you. It won’t be scary or unpleasant, but in fact the most beautiful sound you have ever heard. As the singing gets louder, you will find that you start to feel younger and younger. Just like in a dream, you will see yourself as you used to be, doing all the things you used to do. Suddenly, you will feel all your brothers and sisters around you, snuggling and cuddling next to you and feeling the warmth of their bodies, even though you have not seen any of them in an extremely long time. You will be surprised to notice a taste in your mouth, a taste of something sweet and warm and very delicious, and it will make you think of your mother’s milk. Then you will look up and see the beautiful face of your mother again, smiling down at you just as she did when you opened up your eyes and took your first look at a world that was young and fresh and new. You will close your eyes one more time and everything will turn sunset colors and get quiet. When you open your eyes again, the golden sun will fill your eyes and you will see the biggest rainbow you have ever seen. You will smell flowers and fresh clover and grass, and all the bunnies you have ever known in your life will be running toward you, all smiling and coming over to welcome you. And just when you think that all the joy you are feeling inside can no longer be contained, you will not be able to resist the urge to sing. You will open your mouth and raise your voice, and it will join the countless multitudes of voices around you, singing that same beautiful song that you first heard in the middle of the night and thought was just a dream.”

“Wow,” I said in amazement, “am I going to hear the singing too, Gramma?”

“Not for a very long time, I hope, Josiah,” she said, smiling warmly. “You have a great deal of running, jumping, playing and dancing to do. You have your whole life in front of you, enjoy it as much as you can. When you run across a field, you are running with millions and millions of rabbits that have come before you, and you are blazing a trail for the many millions that will be coming after you. When you jump up into the air, so high and strong, you are being lifted by the spirits of a hundred million bunnies who have felt the same joy you do. Live your life as a precious gift every single second, and don’t worry about hearing the singing. That will happen in its own time.”

I looked up into her ruby-red eyes and noticed she had a far-away look on her face. Suddenly I understood what she was telling me. “You’ve been hearing the singing, haven’t you, Gramma?”

She looked at me and let out a long sigh. “I have been hearing the singing for a number of days now, Josiah,” she said softly. “I can tell it is getting very close to me. I know that soon it will lead me into the light, and I am looking forward to going home and seeing my mother and my brothers and sisters and my babies again. I am not afraid, Josiah, and I don’t want you to be fearful, either. You should go now, my little one, and I hope that you will remember what I told you today.”

“Yes, Gramma,” I said, with tears in my eyes. “I will remember, and I will remember you.” I slowly hopped away, and that was the last time I saw Old Gramma.

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