When I was four, I told everyone that my mother was a stuffed rabbit, but only because my father told me this himself. He is a toymaker, and the night after my mother died, he gave it to me and said this was her now. This was where she had gone. I accepted this because adults knew everything. When I grew up, I would be skilled at everything, automatically privy to the universe’s secrets, the most capable carpenter, artist, astronomer, garbage woman. Creating the toy himself was more convincing than bringing one home from the dollar store, tag still hanging hemorrhoidal from it. He chose buttons the same hazel as her eyes, dotted white paint on them. The same gray fur as the rabbits in our backyard that my mother watched out the breakfast window, baby-talking to them, coffee in hand. The ears antennaed straight up, alert, straining ambitiously for all the world’s sounds. Whiskers whimsically jagged. Lips quirked in an eternal smile.
I had a roomful of my father’s platypi, chuck-will’s-widows, pink fairy armadillos, sea slugs, wooly mammoths. My mother became the only one I carried around with me. I could bend her arms any way I wanted. I posed a ladle between her paws so it looked like she was cooking tomato soup for me. I put her in our tallest elm and giggled at her hypocrisy, because she forbade me from climbing so high. When I felt bad for hogging her, I gave her to my father. I caught him one morning with the rabbit tucked in his bed.
I wonder how he would have tried to assuage my fears if I lost her at the park. If stitches started showing on her underside. I don’t recall the moment I stopped believing him. I never told him, but he sensed the change like a drop in barometric pressure, weary sadness crinkling beside his eyes.
My mother watches me from her shelf with repainted eyes, her fur washed-out and oranged with old tomato sauce stains.