The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes by DuBose Heyward is a classic with its vintage pictures but that's only half of the reason I love this story (as proof you can see that I have the same well-loved copy I had when I was a child).
To me it's the ultimate in true feminist literature.
I'm aware that that's a bold statement to make but if you aren't familiar with the story let me give you a basic outline. It tells of the Easter Bunny--or more correctly the Easter Bunnies (there are more than one)--who each year deliver the eggs to the children of the world. A young little girl bunny dreams of growing up to become one of these chosen bunnies but gets married and has a family as only a rabbit can (21 babies) and her plans have to be set aside when life takes over.
But despite what you think might be a minor set back she performs her duties as a mother with such skill and care that her 21 children are resourceful, independent, helpful and kind.
One day the proclamation goes out that one of the Easter Bunnies has to retire and it's time to pick a new Easter Bunny to take his place. The mother bunny takes her 21 children to the festival to see the tryouts and gains the attention of the Old Wise Kind Head Easter Bunny (because, after all, she's at a party with 21 children. And I feel as if people stare at me with only my four!)
As the Old Wise Kind Head Easter Bunny is exactly that--wise and old and kind--he soon sees that the mother bunny has exactly the qualities he's looking for and surprises everyone by appointing her to fill the vacancy.
The story then takes a slight detour into the adventure the little mother bunny has in performing her duties as an Official Easter Bunny and demonstrates in the process courage, determination and all those good virtues that a proper children's story should exhibit but after the night's work is finished she quietly takes her own little basket of goodies and heads home to her family.
So how on earth did I find feminism in a 1939 children's book written by a man? I'm glad you asked. May I quote?
One day a little country girl bunny with brown skin and a little cotton-ball of a tail said, "Some day I shall grow up to be an Easter Bunny: --you wait and see!"I find it marvelous that DuBose Heyward could write something 70 years ago that speaks to me so clearly. I find it rather inspiring (if that's not a ridiculous word to use in connection with a children's picture book about a rabbit) how the little Cottontail takes her motherhood duties so seriously and does them so well.
Then all of the big white bunnies who lived in fine houses, and the Jack Rabbits with long legs who can run so fast, laughed at the little Cottontail and told her to go back to the country and eat a carrot. But she said, "Wait and see!"
The little girl Cottontail grew up to be a young lady Cottontail. And by and by she had a husband and then one day, much to her surprise there were twenty-one Cottontail babies to take care of.
Then the big white rabbits and the Jacks with long legs laughed and laughed, and they said, "What did we tell you!' One a country rabbit would go and have all those babies. Now take care of them and leave Easter eggs to great big men bunnies like us." And they went away liking themselves very much.
Then to two of them she gave little brooms and showed them how to sweep out the cottage, and two she taught how to make beds. Two more went with her to the kitchen, and in no time at all had found out how to cook a good dinner. And with these went the two little dish-washers, and they made the glasses shine like crystal . . .I can picture Heyward (the writer behind Porgy and Bess by the way) telling this story to his daughter Jennifer with all the tenderness of a parent's love. Here's what I've learned after the approximately 159 readings of this book:
- Suddenly you look up one day and have all these children--and may not be entirely sure how it all happened so fast.
- Moms have dreams too and not only is it okay to have interests outside of your children it's a healthy thing that usually makes you a better mom if you don't let it take over your real job.
- There is a time and a season for everything.
- Be patient, you won't always have babies and small children around. The time does pass . . . eventually . . . though usually faster than you anticipate.
- Be careful who you laugh at because you could one day end up eating their dust.
- Having a large family hardly means one is irresponsible. It can be a great blessing.
- Motherhood takes amazing skill to be done properly but it can be done.
- Motherhood isn't about doing everything for your children but teaching them how to do it for themselves.
- Let your children take a chance by doing something on their own without you hovering over them. Give them a chance to prove themselves--even if it means walking away while they struggle a bit.
- Children should be well behaved in public (as well as in private).
- Motherhood, while eternal, won't always require the same things of me as it does now--it will change as I do.
- Teaching is more effective when accompanied by example rather than lecture.
- Work with your children's natural abilities and talents.
- Children work well with buddies to help them get things done. Positive peer pressure and all that.
- If you're feeling like you're doing all the household work don't yell at your husband, instead put your kids to work. After all, it's their laundry too and they're more capable than you think.
- The aesthetics in a home are as important as the food being on the table and the arts make the work more enjoyable.
- A clean home can be managed with a large family.
- Motherhood isn't all about chasing children (though it helps to be in good shape).
- Sometimes you have to work all night to get the job done.
- Sometimes you don't sleep at all.
- There are plenty of people who value motherhood so don't undersell your talents or abilities or think you're alone.
- Women can do most things just as well as men though usually in their own unique way.
- A mother's influence often goes beyond the boundaries of her own home.
- It's important to remember where your heart should be. Hurry home.
- And a woman can do anything with a great pair of shoes on her feet.
Happy Easter to all of you, I hope your weekend is wonderful!
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