In the blink of an eye the mystery of Easter was forever mangled by the silver screen: The Easter Bunny (or E.B. as he's known in the diminutive) was sitting on the hood of a Volvo, hunched up his haunches. There was a clattering sound and when he stepped aside ... a pile of candy.
"That kind of gives new meaning to 'you're full of beans, doesn't it, mom?" said Ittybit, first as a whisper and then a wall of giggles. "Full of beans."
It was too late. A new understanding had already taken root. "Hop's" jelly bean fountain overflowing with a rainbow of color, which had made us all gasp at its beauty as we sat in the darkened theater, was nothing more than cartoon sewer system for all the animated inhabitants of Easter Island.
A tub of popcorn accidentally spilt on the floor. Two trips to the snack bar later and the credits started to roll. With them rolled Ittybit's questions: "Mom?" she said cautiously in a whisper: "Is there really an Easter bunny?"
Ah ... the seven-year-itch. The phrase generally accepted to mean the time in a marriage when the strength of fidelity weakens. The magic is gone or maybe it wasn't ever there to begin with.
In my mind that kind of thinking may start at the average age of seven, when we begin to understand that Santa was just a nice old man with whiskers moonlighting at Macy's to supplement his pension.
The gossip was probably all over school.
I knew it was only a matter of time. The fabric of the fantasy was beginning to unravel around the edges ... all those threads that were just at loose ends were now starting to fray.
I was silent. I didn't want my baby to disappear completely. Even as I roll my eyes and wish she could read the pulpy fairy stories by herself already, I didn't want all the magic to vanish.
"Did you hear me? Mom? Is the Easter Bunny real?"
"What do you think? Do you think he's real?" I ask with equal care. I don't want to douse the magic but I don't want to be accused of perpetrating an outright lie."
"I don't think there is one," she said softly, not wanting to tip off her happily oblivious brother to the possibility. Maybe she didn't even want to be right. "I think parents bring the candy."
I shrug my shoulders. What can I say? The story always seemed a little unclear. ... A rabbit, dressed in velvet and silk, hopping around the world delivering baskets of treats to kids as they sleep? ... And doing it all without thumbs?
She's probably been asking herself the same questions.
How would a rabbit even hold the baskets? Why do some children get toys and others get candy? Sometimes he hides the baskets and sometimes he just leaves them out in plain sight. And how does he deliver to all the children of the world in just one night? It takes us two hours just to go to the grocery store. It just doesn't make sense.
And those inconsistencies don't begin to explain the reasons why Hollywood has cast every single bunny as a boy. Ittybit finds it completely unfair, especially seeing as her favorite Easter story is about a mommy bunny with 21 children who defies all odds and is chosen to be The Easter Bunny. There must be a sugar glass ceiling in Movieland's ornate panoramic eggs.
It's all too complicated. There has to be a simple answer: The Easter bunny isn't real.
She takes a deep breath.
"You're the Easter bunny, aren't you?"
I shrug my shoulders.
"I can't explain magic," I tell her. "I just believe."
She smiles and accepts my explanation. But she can tell it's just the icing of denial spread thinly over a bitter-sweet chocolate cake. She only wants the frosting anyway so It's not hard to swallow. Her truth is underneath it still, waiting for her to take a bite.