Moms, aunts, grandmas mean to do the best for the kids in their lives. They want them to witness the great things in life.
They want to point out the random, sweet, drama-free moments that just happen along.
"Look at all the leaves on the ground!" they tell their little ones, inviting them to jump in the piles.
"What a pretty sunset," they say, pointing at all the colors in the sky.
Or, "Look, kids, at all the bunny rabbits on the side of the road!"
A family gathering on Easter reminded me of an evening – many, many years ago, when my Wilkinson nieces were just little girls.
I was riding with my sister-in-law, Jodi; her pigtailed little girls, Sydney and Paige; and mother-in-law, Tarri. We were off to have a girls' night out. It was a lovely summer evening in Lincoln, the sun was still up — there was plenty of light to see we were approaching a big bunch of furry, happy little rabbits curiously nestled in the soft grass, near the sidewalk.
Jodi slowed the minivan, so everyone could get a good look as we passed them.
"Look girls, look!" their mother exclaimed from the driver's seat. "They are so cute! Can you see them all?"
I was wondering why so many bunnies — not just one or two, but maybe nine or 10 — were all standing there. But I also told the kids to look.
The little blond-haired girls strained to lean forward in their car seats.
"Mom, I see them!" exclaimed Sydney, who was smart beyond her years. "Do you see them, Paige?" she asked, as she guided her young sister's face in the right direction.
"I see them too! They're so cute," Paige said, as we got closer to the herd of bunnies.
As Jodi kept encouraging them to take a closer look, the unthinkable happened.
I think Jodi, Tarri and I saw it happen in slow motion. No one wanted to yell or scream, even though it was obvious something really bad was about to happen.
The cute little bunnies began to stampede. There were entire blocks of commercial parking lots to run through — but no. They ran like lemmings to an ocean-side cliff — headed for the street.
There was no braking, there wasn't time. There was no swerving, there were too many.
The echoes of "thanks for pointing out the happy little bunnies, Mom" were interrupted with a series of "Bump, bump, bump," under the minivan tires.
And then there was silence.
"Mommy, I don't see the bunnies anymore," Paige said, trying to turn around.
With horror, I looked forward toward the rear view window to see the driver, their horror-stricken mother, looking back. We screamed at each other through our eyes.
My mother-in-law, sitting in the far back seat, simply put her hand over her mouth and stared ahead.
What were we to do next?
We just pointed out a massive bunch of God’s cutest creations, right before we massacred them right beneath the little girls’ seats.
Maybe they didn't realize it. Maybe they didn't notice . . . we hoped.
The "Veggie Tales" sound track was turned up a little louder — we had turned it down earlier so we could talk about the beautiful little bunnies.
My mind was racing, “Pretend, pretend nothing's happened. Hurry, Jodi, get to the restaurant so we can talk about chicken nuggets and color the placemats.”
"Mom, did you run over the bunnies?" Sydney matter-of-factly asked.
"What?" Jodi asked, trying to hide the sweat running off her forehead. "Oh, hey, this is the good part where the asparagus sings," she said as she turned up the song.
"Mom, I think you killed the bunnies," Sydney said.
"Bunnies died?" Paige asked, with her eyes wide open.
"No, no," I said, staring at Jodi in the mirror.
"What are we going to do?" Jodi asked me with her eyes.
"They just went for a run . . ." I offered.
"Then what was that clump-a-clump sound?" Sydney asked.
"Oh, we were just going over some speed bumps," I told her. Smart Sydney argued there are no speed bumps on major streets in Lincoln.
"Mom, I think I see them taking a nap in the street. What if someone hits them?" Paigie asked, as she tried to look back.
Tarri tried to block their view through the back windows, reaching out, hugging their seats.
"Grandma loves you!" she proclaimed.
Sydney knew too much — she couldn't let it go. She told us how it reminded her of the time she was with her dad and they hit a raccoon in the country. It sounded the same way, she testified.
Once at the restaurant, their mother speculated about whether she should pretend to go to the bathroom and return to the scene of the crime in order to make sure the bunnies weren't suffering. We decided that was a good idea — we put crayons in all hands and colored furiously.
"Where's Mom?" Paige asked as she colored Scooby Doo a bright color of green. That's about the color we all felt at that point.
"Mom's in the bathroom," Tarri and I said in unison, hoping we could fool them.
But Sydney stared us down.
"Yeah, Mom's in the bathroom," she said, while giving us a 5-year-old's version of a "you-owe-me-one" look.
Their mom returned, but she didn't look so hot. We ordered her a sandwich — she wasn't so hungry. But we proceeded on.
Luckily, there was no more talk about the bunnies. It seemed as if everything had ended. The kids were naive, all was forgotten, we hoped.
Later that evening, when the husbands arrived at Jodi’s house, the kids ran to them in their pajamas.
"What did you guys do tonight?" their father asked.
"We ate burgers, and played in our room, and Grandma tickled us . . .
"And then we watched Mom kill all the bunnies," both girls said.
"Yeah, Mom and Aunt Mel and Grandma told us to look at all the bunnies, and then they ran them over," Sydney said.
We just sickly smiled and held up their little colored placemats from the restaurant. The men just stared at us.
You can’t food kids. No matter our intentions or how much we tried to make up, the kids were so much sharper than we had estimated.
And you can’t fool bunnies. If they are clumped in a giant bunch, on the side of the street, it’s highly likely they will head straight for your tires.