Can’t Take a Joke
The hunt is over. William and his friends run about the park and hurl plastic eggs at one another. The pastel hand grenades burst on contact, and “individually wrapped, peanut-free, non-melting” candy falls to the ground.
Across the park is a rabbit. Solid white and 6 foot 6, he is dressed in nothing more than a jaunty vest, bow tie and New Balance tennis shoes.
“William, there’s the Easter Bunny,” I say.
The Easter Bunny. With a seven year old boy. Honestly. But I attempt to draw the last few drops of his childhood into my heart; a fat lady sucking on the straw of an empty milkshake. What a grating sound it makes. What desperate turbulence.
“No!” he says. “His costume is creepy!”
Off he runs. No time for me. But then a toddler appears. She is small and sweet, this child; outfitted in a bubblegum pink dress with tulle embellishments.
“Hey darlin’,” I say.
Darlin holds her basket up toward me. She says nothing.
“Did you find all those eggs?” I ask.
“What a big girl!”
Darlin smiles, then points her tiny finger. I follow its trajectory until my eyes land on the Easter Bunny.
“Do you like the Easter Bunny?”
“Do you know where the Easter Bunny eats breakfast?” I am grateful that she set up the joke so perfectly.
“At IHOP,” I say.
Darlin blinks. Nothing.
“It’s a joke,” I say.
“IHOP. Do you get it?”
And now I am in speech therapy mode. I can’t help it.
“What does it mean if something ‘hops?'”
Darlin jumps up and down twice. Her patent leather shoes don’t leave the freshly-cut grass. She is a lazy little darlin.
“Exactly,” I say. “‘Hop’ means ‘jump,’ and the Easter Bunny hops.”
“But IHOP is also a resturant,” I continue. “IHOP, like ‘International House of Pancakes.'”
Darlin reaches down into her dress to scratch her navel. Her arm stretches the neckline of the knit dress. It is going to sag and gap forever now. And it isn’t even Easter Sunday. I am annoyed on her mother’s behalf. She has ruined the dress.
“So ‘I hop’ means ‘I jump,’ but it also means IHOP as in the pancake restaurant. Now, lets practice so you can tell your mommy the joke: Where does the Easter Bunny eat breakfast?”
“In his kitchen!” darlin says.
“I suppose he does,” I say. Then I walk over to William and tell him the joke.
“That’s a good one, Mom,” he says.
And I say, “Thanks, buddy. I knew you’d appreciate it.”