I Was the Easter Bunny at Cinderella City!
Ok raise your hand if you’ve lived in Colorado long enough to remember Cinderella City! Ah yes, that incredible mall at the junction of Hampden and Broadway, right off the 285 thoroughfare which made it an easy stop for mountain folks. While the Cinderella City Mall with all of its Disney-themed corridors has been gone for many years now, its memory lives on. This is one of those.
For many students, spring break conjures up images of skiing in T-shirt weather or perhaps frolicking on the beach at some tropical location. But for me, during my college days at the University of Denver, spring break meant one thing: work.
Back then, a three-week vacation from school meant that I could find a job and work enough to save for next quarter’s expenses. It was my freshman year and I was checking out the jobs posted on the bulletin at the student union. One caught my attention: WANTED: Easter Bunny.
It didn’t take long for me to secure my position as Mrs. Easter Bunny at the local mall, Cinderella City. My duties were simple. I’d calmly walk the kids with their information (name, age, and number of pictures they were buying) up to Mr. Easter Bunny so that they could sit on his lap for a picture.
Our costumes were your basic full-length, white fur coverall crowned by a claustrophobic papier-mâché bunny head with long, tall ears. As far as I could see, the only difference between the Mr. and Mrs. costumes was that the “she” had an apron and blouse and the “he” had slacks and a snappy vest sewn directly into the fur.
The guy who played Mr. Easter Bunny was good with the kids. And the kids were always ready with a big hug and bright smiles when it came time for the photo. It was an easy gig that paid well. Until Good Friday when I showed up for work and discovered I had been promoted to Mr. Easter Bunny.
It seems that mall security had received complaints about the regular guy from parents whose kids had taken a picture with him. The former Mr. Bunny had such a good memory for names that when he was shopping the mall, off duty (without costume), he’d call kids by their names, thus freaking out parents who had no idea who this stranger was who knew their kids by name. Weirder yet, he had made repeated requests to wear the Easter Bunny outfit home on the bus. What can I say, the guy had a fetish for fur, and it cost him his job.
Ultimately, it was those circumstances that led to my moment in the sun. I was now Mr. Easter Bunny! How hard could it be? I’d been watching the procedure for over a week now: kids come up, sit on your lap and take a picture. Unfortunately, it didn’t take long to discover that this type of work actually does require a specialist.
My first day as the Grand Hare was two days before Easter, and the line of kids and parents seemed to wind endlessly through the mall. I immediately changed into the Mr. costume for the first time. It was then that my troubles began.
First, the Mr. Easter Bunny head was much bigger than the Mrs. head. As a result, it wobbled about and spun around like some kind of rabid rabbit. Now you can imagine what this looks like to a kid: you’ve got your Sunday best on and are approaching a creature three times your size whose head is spinning around, all the while hearing language more colorful than a basket full of freshly dyed Easter eggs spewing from your fine, furry friend. Part of the problem was that while Mr. Bunny had been replaced, Mrs. Bunny had not. There was no buffer, no gently guiding Mrs. Easter Bunny to bring the children to the Mr.
Gone were the quiet, calm conversations that I saw my former coworker create with the nicely coiffed children. There were no pictures of beautifully smiling kids perched upon this bunny’s knee. Instead, there were tears, mixed with melted chocolate, streaming down kids’ faces. Most had passed their patience limit and were now crashing from the sugar high we had bribed them with earlier. For two hours I sat captive in a papier-mâché prison that reverberated with every fearful shriek imaginable from kids brave enough to actually get that close. The photographer’s demeanor was quickly deteriorating as well.
And then it happened. I did something that has probably psychologically scarred some of those kids for life. In fact, many of them have probably never had a normal Easter since that day. Some kid got a hold of my cottontail and yanked it so hard I almost fell to the floor. But I held my ground. My Mr. Easter Bunny costume however, did not fair so well.
Enough! To the horror of dozens of kids and parent waiting in line, I pulled off my “Mr.” head and screamed, “Enough!” I turned and headed straight toward the employee changing room, leaving dozens of – now strangely quiet – parents and kids behind. Then I remembered the second difference between the Mrs. and Mr. Easter Bunny costume: it did not allow me a layer of clothing underneath. Red-faced, I walked through the crowd, exposing a group of kids to something that probably looked more like a Playboy Bunny than the Easter Bunny. Needless to say, the next day I hopped my way to the unemployment line.
But don’t let that story make you miss out on this time honored tradition of getting the kids’ picture taken with Mr. Easter Bunny; it makes for lasting childhood memories. Happy Easter!