Maybe you remember the garden. From the terrace beneath a wall covered in big, red, beautiful roses – occupied with lots and lots of busy bumble bees, and filling the garden with their scent – there was a perfect view of the huge willow at the other side of the lawn. On late summer afternoons you would hear the light rustling of branches in the wind, the buzzing of bees and the calls of seagulls high above, and feel the last warm rays of the setting sun as evening was drawing near.
If you entered through the willow’s curtain of branches you might see a pair of little girls, giggling and playing with their favourite toy animals; one with hair as black as night, the other as fair as sunlight. I was the darker one, and my little white bunny was so soft and cute, with long ears that were pink on the inside. She had a pink nose, too, and around her neck a pink ribbon, tied in a bow. My friend had a brown teddy bear that would growl if you turned him upside-down; his ribbon was wide and elegant, and a slightly darker brown than he was. I remember I found that growl of his quite fascinating.
We would stay underneath the willow’s branches and play, hidden inside this tiny but comfortable world of our own, sitting on a big blanket upon the grass. We’d bring lemonade in cups with straws, and biscuits or cookies on a plate. Our dear little toy friends would drink toy milk from toy bottles; we’d pretend they were our babies, and dress them up in all sorts of clothes. Picture, if you can, a brown teddy bear in a pink ballet tutu and pink ballet shoes, trying for dear life to hang on to his dignity, or a little white bunny in a red dress with gold buttons and a white bow ribbon on top of her head. Many enchanted hours were spent beneath those branches.
Later, when the cups of lemonade were empty, and biscuits were gone, we would venture further into the depth of the garden, to the big old apple tree. This late in the afternoon, with the sunlight mostly gone, the mosquitoes were awfully busy, but we hardly noticed them; we were quite busy ourselves, competing about who could eat the most apples. They were deliciously sweet, and we ate and ate, throwing half-eaten cores around and eating some more, until we were quite stuffed and couldn’t bear to even think of apples, not until the next day when we would return to this banquet with renewed vigour. By now it was time for me to go home, so we said our good-byes and good-nights with tired but happy smiles. We were best friends forever, and still are.
One such evening, as I went to bed, I realised that I had left my bunny by the willow, high up on a branch. We had put them both there, holding paws and leaning against each other, so that they could enjoy the view of us raiding the apple tree. But we had not intended for them to stay out all night. I was sad, and a little lonely, and I just couldn’t wait for the morning to come soon enough. As soon as I woke up I ran to my friend’s house to check if my bunny and the bear were still waiting where we had left them. They were, and I grabbed her and hugged her silly, thrilled that we were together again for a new day of adventures. Then I whispered in her ear that I was terribly sorry, and promised that I would never ever forget her again. She would go wherever I went, held tightly in my right hand so that I would not lose her.
That bunny was you, Sunniva. We were inseparable, you and I, and we went together through good times and bad. Now you sit in your favourite spot on the bookshelf; on your belly is a mark like a hole from my thumb, after I held you so tight for all those years, through thick and thin. You’ve almost lost your head, your nose is gone and the fur on your tail has worn off, but you are still one of my most precious friends in the world, because you belong to my inner child.
Sometimes I see those two little girls in that tree, sitting on the high branches, feeling the mild summer breeze, watching the stars twinkle and dreaming of flying. When I look at you, I can still hear the echoes of laughter and voices from a long, long time ago. They are gone, but not forgotten.
And you are still here.