Easter bunnying is a thankless job

When I joined Fredonia Grange four years ago, I was eager to please and willing to do whatever it took to fit in with this active group.  Opportunity came in the form of the annual Easter egg hunt, an event so large it had to be held at the Calhoun County Fairgrounds.

I knew Gail Morgan’s Easter Bunny act the previous year would be a hard one to follow.  Cute and petite, she looked simply darling in all the photos of the occasion.  I figured I would be a more athleticized version of the Easter Bunny, substituting enthusiasm where I lacked cuteness.

What I didn’t know is that the wearing of the bunny suit had become a hazing ritual for new members of the grange who didn’t know any better. 

Gail gave me her blessing, a pep talk, and reassurance Easter Bunnying would be an easier than usual gig that year, as the new bunny costume had a full-head covering.  The one she had worn had been headless, with just a set of strap-on ears.  She’d had to paint her uncovered face to disguise her human features.  Despite doing a good job of it, people had expected her Easter Bunny character to talk.  That had left her hoarse for days.  I allegedly would have it much better with a full head covering.  I could remain silent.

Within five minutes of donning the bunny suit, I discovered the trade-off for being able to save my voice:  Lack of ventilation. 

The outdoor temperature that Saturday was cool enough that my body didn’t overheat in the bunny costume, even with the added warmth of the jeans and sweater I wore underneath.  But the head of the costume was a different story – one with a much less happy ending.

Had I opted not to breathe at all for the three hours I played rabbit, I think I might have been okay.  But as a lifelong fan of oxygen, I felt the selfish need for periodic indulgences of the stuff. 

I started out perky, dancing around to entertain the egg hunters.  I had choreographed a special bunny hop with wildly animated gestures, but I quickly realized the extra activity only hastened the burning of what little oxygen was trickling in through the pin-hole eye slits through which I was supposed to be breathing.

My bunny soon became a more laid-back character, more relaxed and comatose than Perry Como.  Even then, I needed to inhale deeply every few seconds in order to maximize what little oxygen was available.  It required me tugging the base of the mask away from my face, which made it appear the Easter Bunny was constantly picking his nose.  It was also a pretty noisy process, as gasping for air usually is.

I must have sounded like Darth Vader to the kids who came up to meet me.  Visibility was extremely limited in the suit, so I came to fear their ambushes.  Especially the running hugs that came out of nowhere and threatened to knock the wind out of me, had there been any wind to knock out.  I observed some mighty interesting behavior through my oxygen-deprived haze that I can only hope was hallucinatory.  Mostly involving the parents.

Many parents seemed more intent on getting the right photo or video footage than with letting their kids have a good time.  Some foisted their infants into my surprised paws for photographs and got meltdowns instead.  Others coached their toddlers on strategy for out egg hunting the other children, encouraging violence if necessary.  Still others forced screaming preschoolers to confront their fear of rabbits by shoving them, startled, in my direction.

I got the usual bunch of older kids remarks, “Easter Bunny, why are you wearing running shoes?” and “If you’re supposedly a real bunny, why do you have human hair sticking out under the back of your mask?”  Some hit and pinched me to prove I wasn’t real.  The whole experience was unreal.  “Ouch” was the only word that broke my silence that day.  I was barely able to get out of bed the next.

Gloria Steinem had it far easier with her stint as a Playboy Bunny.  Plus she received tips.


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