Lovin' from the Oven

Love achieves its promise.

Rodney J. Hugen is a part-time writer, part-time bookkeeper and full-time husband and father living in Phoenix, Arizona. This article appeared in Virtue, May-June 1994. Used with permission.

It was my wife's idea. In a mall window, she noticed the 8-inch, fluffy, white bunny with the pink heart on the bottom of his foot. It reminded her of a story she'd read about a family who used a stuffed bear to show love to each other. Our family could use him as our own Love Bunny, she thought.

At home, she explained to me and our two boys, ages 4 and 7, how her Love Bunny game would work.

"First," she said, "I'll hide the bunny where someone I love will find him. If you find it, you'll know I love you."

Justin didn't quite get the idea, "Do you mean if I find him, I get to keep him?"

"No," Kathy replied, "But you get to be next to hide the bunny where someone you love w ill find him. We'll just keep hiding and finding him. The game can go on forever unless we get tired of it and stop looking for him."

Early the next morning, our youngest son, Derek, found a big lump in the middle of his pillow. He reached underneath and with a mile-wide grin, hollered, "I've got the Love Bunny!"

Later, I smiled, too, when I found the snowy bunny tucked in my sock drawer as I dressed for work. Day after day, Love , Bunny showed up in I the washing ma­\ chine, a bag of dog food or in the cookie jar. Once he was even "driving" the Ply­mouth when I left for work. Occasionally, he'd get lost in the toy jungle beneath the bunkbeds in the boy's room. Kathy she loved anyone who cleaned up enough of the mess under there to find him.

Gradually, Love Bunny lost his luster. The once bright eyes dulled and the red satin ribbon frayed. Shiny white fur became matted and stained. We stopped looking for him as intently, but were still pleased when he turned up in some unexpected place or at an unusual time. Finally, he just seemed to vanish; for several weeks no one was able to find him.

The weather turned bleak and cold, and clouds covered our Arizona skies. On a particularly chilly October day, Kathy an­nounced her intention to try a new cookie recipe. During the 115-degree summers we had seldom used the oven, so we looked forward to enjoying the goodies that cool weather brought. Arriving home from work, I jumped from the Ply­mouth and burst through the kitchen door, anticipating the aroma of fresh-baked cookies. What a stench! It was awful.

Kathy grumbled, "Smells wonderful, doesn't it? I don't know what went wrong with these cookies, but I ate a couple and they taste OK. If you guys are brave, go ahead and try some." The boys and I dug in eagerly. She was right. They tasted terrific.

A while later, she yelled from the back room, "Why don't you clean the oven and work off some of those calories you're devouring? Maybe a dirty oven caused that horrible stink."

Ruefully, I opened the oven and began removing the racks. Then I spied, stuck high in the corner, between the wall of the oven and the broiler element, a very small, fully-baked bunny. The once beautiful white fluff was now chocolate-colored and crumbled, his fuzzy coat melted.

"I've found Love Bunny!" I shouted as I pulled the toasted remains from the hiding place.

"Where was he?" Kathy smiled.

I held him up for her and watched as her face grew angry.

"Oh, great! Now, he's ruined," she said. "Who hid him in the oven? What a stupid thing to do!" Disgusted, she turned and stalked from the room.

Tears welled in Justin's eyes. He raced into the yard, letting the door slam behind him. I followed and tried to explain that he'd done nothing wrong. The look on his face said he didn't believe me. Together, we went searching for Mom and found her in the bedroom.

Justin began slowly, "Mom, I just wanted you to know, whenever you make cookies, I especially love you."

Kathy stopped dusting, looked down and whispered, "I know you love me and I love you, too. I'm sorry I yelled at you. I forgot the whole reason for Love Bunny. Will you forgive me?"

Then we all giggled at our poor, misshapen bunny and, with great ceremony, threw him away.

Later, I rescued the bunny from the garbage can and hid him in a drawer. Now when I feel mis­treated, or when people don't act the way I think they're supposed to get him out and remember the story. I know when I forgive my child, love does achieve its promise.

Rodney J. Hugen is a part-time writer, part-time bookkeeper and full-time husband and father living in Phoenix, Arizona. This article appeared in Virtue, May-June 1994. Used with permission.