Easter, Passover and spring in general are said to signal a time of renewal, rebirth and joy. It’s also a time to celebrate lasting friendships, even those that aren’t readily apparent.
It’s also a time of happiness after a long, harsh winter, a time when sunshine, flowers and bunnies are welcomed, especially those adorable little white ones hopping around on your lawn eating what you’ve just planted, yourself as stuffed cuddly toys in Easter baskets and beautiful figurines expertly and deliciously sculpted by chocolatiers. As a child, this was my idea of renewal, sunshine, and pure, unadulterated joy; and so a fast and lasting friendship with the chocolate bunny developed!
When I was a little girl, the very first thing I wanted to tear up in my Easter basket was a nice, solid, dark chocolate bunny. Unlike most of my friends, I didn’t like milk chocolate, and I was appalled by the rabbits, which were hollow inside. All I wanted was a nice big piece of dark chocolate. Did I start with the ear or gently nibble on the feet? Uh-uh. I quickly unpacked the rabbit and unceremoniously bit off his head!
One spring, around Easter time, my Brownie troupe took a trip to the Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, New Jersey to see a live performance of a play called “Harvey” starring British-American actor and comedian Joe E. Braun. I was about eight years old, had never been to live theater before and was very excited, especially when we were told the play was about an imaginary white rabbit.
The truth is, “Harvey” was a 1944 comedy directed by Mary Chase, for which she surprisingly won the Pulitzer Prize. In 1955 it was adapted into the world of cinematography and became a hit film starring Jimmy Stewart, which delivered the kind of whimsical, candid performance he was famous for. That same year, a live production of “Harvey” starring Joe E. Brown hit the stage. Though the plot was absurd on the surface, it was the underlying message that undoubtedly won the hearts of those who voted for the Pulitzer and awarded it to Mary Chase that year on Tennessee Williams’ “The Glass Menagerie.” The plot tells the story of a grown man, Elwood P. Dowd, who lives in a large house with his sister and niece; However, he also spends most of his time making the rounds at local bars, making new friends and introducing them to his invisible sidekick Harvey, a 6ft 3in white rabbit that only he can see. Dowd drinks his way around town and “presents” Harvey to everyone he meets, while his sister quietly prepares to sign him. After hearing her riff over and over about an imaginary rabbit, the folks at the local sanatorium think she’s actually the lunatic and try to sign her. Ultimately, the message “What is real? what is truth And who are you harming anyway by having an imaginary friend?” comes translucently.
Since when I went to the Paper Mill Playhouse and saw my first live show, many springs have come and gone. Since then I have developed a strong, lifelong passion for live theater and have seen many productions locally, regionally and on Broadway. But in addition to sunshine and flowers, spring every year brings with it the sweet memory of that giant white rabbit who shared the same room with me a long time ago, actors pretending to be who they’re not, and the wonderful relationship that only that is live theater can arise between actors and audience.
Although I still love dark chocolate, especially at Easter, I don’t want to have a bunny in my basket anymore. I buy other chocolate novelties but never a bunny. It might sound silly to you, but it’s just that when I bite the head off like I’ve always wanted to, I feel like I’m biting the head off Harvey, and he’s the reason I love the miracle so much Play theater and understand the depth and beauty of unconditional friendship, knowing that it doesn’t have to be visible to be real.
Happy Easter. Happy Passover. I hope you all celebrate the beauty of the season and the joy of the friendships dear to you, even if they’re not always easily visible.
A bit like an imaginary white rabbit.
Rona Mann has been a freelance writer for The Sun for 20 years, including her In Their Shoes features. She can be reached at [email protected] or 401-539-7762.