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Two Artful 'Sisters' And the Rabbit That Wasn't

Lisa does not really think of Morven as her aunt. They are more like six-year-olds together.

A year or two ago, Morven (a woman who plays many parts -- Lisa's aunt, my wife, ''the teacher'' to her class) was telling her niece about something that had happened at school: how a frog had found its way into the classroom. No, it did not turn into a prince. It just offered potential disruption and required a show of self-control the teacher does not generally evince in the face of frogs.

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Lisa is a great listener, all ears and wide-eyed when wide-eyed is called for. And she poses just the right questions to make a story last longer.

''And what did the teacher say?'' she asked.

''I am the teacher,'' Morven said.

Now that gave Lisa pause for profound thought. She did not know what to say. So she said nothing at all. She just stared, as if she had swallowed an unexpected fly.

At that preschool stage in her career, the notion of ''teacher'' was little more than a silhouette on the horizon, and whatever idea she had formed of such a figure of adult awe in no respect tallied with an aunt who played ''round-and-round-the-garden'' and tickled her under the armpits.

She just stared.

Today she is more aware that Morven is a big person -- a kind of big sister, perhaps. And now that they are both at school, they can compare notes.

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''I've got a Jim in my class.''

''So have I.''

But to watch them together makes me suspect that Lisa still does not place Morven in the teacher category. Her teacher is not a kid like Morven. A kid who even needs to be shown how things are done sometimes. How, for instance, you draw dogs.

This began with Lisa's Mother's Day card. Morven had arrived for the evening and whispered conspiratorially to Lisa: ''Have you made a Mother's Day card?'' Lisa nodded. She fetched her chef-d'oeuvre.

Her aunt has a capacity for sudden effusions of delight, and she looked at the card and burst into enthusiasm. ''Oh, Lisa, I love your rabbit! It's a wonderful rabbit. Oh, Lisa....''

Lisa looked at her. ''It's a dog,'' she said quite matter-of-factly, not in the least upset.

Now I have to admit that when shown it later I also thought it rather rabbit-like. It was an understandable mistake.

When Morven was thus quietly corrected, she couldn't save herself from giggling. These giggles started internally but soon had to escape outward. But Lisa just smiled.

''Would you like me to show you how I drew it?'' she inquired.

With paper, pencil, and crayons, Lisa settled down to carefully produce a replica of her card. She had included herself in the picture: a heart-shaped balloon in one hand, a supermarket bag in the other. She draws well. She topped herself off by coloring in her blonde hair.

Then she re-created the small animal at her side, which had very long ears, small front paws, and was quite round.

As she worked with her conscientious neatness, she asked her aunt: ''What's Christopher doing?''

''He's at home working.''

''Give him a tickle from me.''

She added the final touch to her drawing. It was the coup de grace. She pointed out this detail.

''Rabbits don't have leads, Morven,'' she said.

And it is true that this appealing creature from her hand does have a lead.

If I had been present, I would probably have remarked (pedantically) that in fact the young Beatrix Potter used to take her rabbit for walks on a lead, and that once I even saw, from a hotel room in the Lake District, a girl and a pet rabbit similarly attached to each other as they strolled down a hill.

But, such pieces of spoil-sport knowledge -- the fruit perhaps of too much life experience -- should not, I am sure, be used to argue with six-year-olds.

Lisa's rabbit has a lead.

Lisa's rabbit is a dog. Case closed.

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