On the day we celebrate Our Lord’s resurrection, I usually try to do something uplifting, like this. This year, I dunno, maybe it’s time for something completely different. This story goes back a long way, but perhaps it has some relevance for today. Hopefully it will brighten yours.
We moved our family business to Chattanooga in 1960. As I’ve described elsewhere, we didn’t exactly fit into the scene here. Chattanooga was a very “ingrown” place with a very definite social hierarchy. Those having the “mountain top experience” were at one end and those in the valley had another, and the two didn’t care much for each other. That battle isn’t what it used to be except in the Hamilton County Department of Education, which is one reason why they’re having such a time finding a new superintendent.
In the midst of this scene, it was necessary to get my brother and I into school. My mother, both in Chattanooga and later in Palm Beach, always preferred to see her sons in private school. After a year an a half in the county school (I am a kindergarten dropout, which is a real hoot when you end up with a PhD) we transferred to the Bright School, which was and is this town’s most prestigious private primary school.
I came there in second grade; it was the year Bright moved from its old campus downtown to the Riverview location it occupies today. Our teacher was nearing retirement; the first day of class she went around the room and pointed out several students. “I taught your father…I taught your mother…I taught your uncle…” and so forth. I should have known I was behind the 8-ball when this took place. It didn’t take long for that to surface. I was adjusting to a new school and a new teacher, and neither was smooth.
The biggest bump in the road took place at Easter. They had a school play, which featured a “good” Easter bunny and a “bad” Easter bunny. After the performance we were instructed to write thank you letters to the cast. Well, I decided to make mine memorable: I told them that the bad bunny was “the bomb” and loved his performance. I’m not sure what prompted me to do this. I could have figured it would get under my teacher’s skin. Also, I grew up in a house where people who didn’t show the requisite IQ were referred to as “dumb bunnies,” so when one made a good impression, it was an event. Finally, being the kid always picked last, I may have sympathised with the guy who must have drawn the short straws to get the part.
My teacher’s reaction was predictable: she went ballistic. I was in hot water and so were my parents. Fortunately cooler heads prevailed in the form of the Headmaster, Dr. Mary Davis, who was brought from where I teach now to succeed the school’s founder. She arranged for me to come to her office periodically to discuss “things.” With a sympathetic ear at school, I settled down, and so did my teacher.
The following year at Bright was much better. But my time ran out there; my health was poor in Chattanooga, and we moved to Palm Beach. Socially I was getting used to Chattanooga, but I doubt that my father shed a tear when the Mayflower moving van pulled out of our Tennessee house.
In looking back, I guess the thing that intrigues me is this: what would happen if this (or something like it) had transpired today? Two possibilities come to mind.
The first is the “everyone gets a trophy” theory: the bad little bunny needed to be praised just like everyone else. In that case I would have done the right thing. Face it: he came to the practices and learned the lines, why not?
The second is the more unfortunate outcome. There’s a good chance that such a play now would be a “politically correct allegory” written to inculcate the desired morality these days. Say, for example, that the bad bunny was a stand-in for Donald Trump, who was trying to “make Easter great again?” Just thinking about the blowback from that is stressful.
The one unlikely outcome, sad to say, is the measures that Dr. Davis took. It takes patience and understanding to deal with children that don’t fit the “norm of the day,” and that too often is in short supply in both our public and private schools.
But ultimately the message of Easter, which concerns the resurrection of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, is obscured by the pagan inclusion of bunnies, good and bad alike. The key here is that, when it comes to Easter, it doesn’t pay to be a dumb bunny.