“Attention Walmart shoppers: the Easter Bunny is in our store today from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm. Stop by our photo department to get your picture taken and receive a free 5 x 7. As always, thank you for shopping your Ashland Walmart.”
Did she say “free”?
I had already spotted the Easter Bunny as I clung on to the shopping cart that Philip was pushing with fierce determination and no sign of stopping. In fact, I had noticed the picture set-up several times since it was close to the stationery supplies. It took three passes through that particular section to locate what I wanted, but it wasn’t until the fourth time that I could convince Philip to pause long enough for me to grab the spiral-bound notebooks on my shopping list and throw them in the cart.
We were now making our way through the grocery department (where it only took me two trips through the snack aisle to snatch a couple of bags of pork rinds for Peter) when I heard the announcement. I looked at Philip: his hair was sticking up and, while the clothes were clean, I hadn’t put much thought into what he was wearing.
“I bet Grandma and Grandpa would like a picture of you with the Easter Bunny,” I said to Philip.
So it was that I steered the cart back to the center of the store. Philip was pushing at a less frantic pace, so I hoped that this experiment would go well.
A young girl was just vacating the bench where the Easter Bunny sat when we approached.
“Hi,” greeted the employee with the camera. “Do you want to meet the Easter Bunny?” she asked Philip.
I parked the cart to the side and led Philip by the hand over to the large, white rabbit. Philip froze in place when he caught sight of the costumed employee.
“He’s a little nervous,” I told the photographer.
To my surprise, Philip walked toward the rabbit. He reached out to touch the fur. The costume’s fabric looked similar to his over-sized teddy bear at home. It must have felt the same, because Philip smiled.
I breathed a sigh of relief. If nothing else, Philip met the bunny and was not traumatized.
“Do you want to get your picture taken?” asked the woman with the camera.
I unzipped Philip’s coat. He shrugged it off and then reach out to touch the furry costume again.
I patted the empty side of the bench. “Here, Philip. Sit beside the Easter Bunny.”
It was less reluctance than distraction that delayed Philip. Who knew that meeting the Easter Bunny could be such a fun sensory experience? Eventually, Philip sat on the bench. He continued to inspect the bunny, gently petting his fur, and even holding his hand, er, paw.
The woman with the camera asked, “What’s his name?”
After I told her, she called Philip’s name in hopes that he would look toward the camera. I knew that the bright fluorescent lights, signs dangling from the ceiling and, most of all, the ceiling fan over the photo center, were much more interesting to Philip than a stranger calling his name. He glanced forward briefly but was always in motion.
“I don’t think he is going to look,” I finally told her.
“I got a really cute one before,” the employee said.
With that, I summoned Philip from the bench. After one final touch of the fur, he came and got his coat on. He was offered candy from a small basket.
“One, Philip. You can pick one.”
Philip tried to pick up the entire basket. I guess that qualifies as one.
We returned to the store this evening to pick up our print. I thought about how the whole thing began with a selfish desire: to get a picture of Philip for his grandparents. I hadn’t expected Philip to get so much joy from the experience, but I can see it in the photo. A smile is on Philip’s face as he pets the Easter Bunny’s pink belly.