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A Hare-owing Tale

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My dad thinks he’s short.

He is 6 feet 1 inch tall.

One of four boys, all of whom grew to towering heights of 6’5″ or taller, my dad is a shrimp by comparison. You know, the same way Scarlett Johansson is a disgusting old warty hag when compared with Helen of Troy. I doubt Scarlett’s sent a single canoe off to war, let alone launched a thousand ships.

I’ve always been flabbergasted that my dad, a man who has spent most of his life looking down at people, could feel small, that his factually knowing the bulk of the population is shorter than he is could be overridden by memories of a childhood among giants. Not getting the part of Tiny Tim in his school play must’ve been the shock of his life.

Growing up, I mocked my dad’s perception problems. I, unlike him, would surely never struggle with such a ridiculous dimension dilemma.

My driver’s test would suggest otherwise.

I blame my genetic disposition for my inability to parallel park. Clearly, it is Dad’s fault that I never fully grasped the largeness of my vehicle or the smallness of the space I was meant to fit into. I failed my first driver’s test. But c’mon, don’t most 16-year-olds fail the first time? Then I failed it again. Thanks a lot, Dad! And I failed again. I failed that test six times until I was able to parallel park correctly and overcome the paternal genes that were hindering me from hitting the road. My first driver’s license picture sports an expression of relief more than excitement. And I’m sure it’s purely coincidence that so many folks commented on how much I looked like my father in that photo.

The driving drama was far from ideal, but for as much as I blamed my dad for my parking problems — as any teen engaging in the proper amount of angst would — I felt confident my spatial issues remained far from his height dysmorphia. I understood that my car was big. It’s not as if I thought it was really small and that’s why I couldn’t park. Unlike Dad, I wasn’t confused; I was just inept.

Last weekend, my little family of three headed out into the wild to decompress in nature.

As a parent, hiking creates contradictory concerns. I want my son to feel confident on his own two feet. I want him to run and jump and explore. But because we stay off trails, I also don’t want those adorable two feet to enjoy the pleasure of an adorable two-fanged snakebite. I’m constantly in flux, deciding to let him run free, regretting my decision and picking him up, only to set him down to run free again. Recently, my mode of operation has been to hold his hand and teach my survival training as we stroll. I point out prickly bushes, poisonous leaves and perfect hiding spots for creepy-crawlies. Certainly, at 24 months, he commits everything I say to long-term memory.

My son is currently obsessed with animals. We have an 18-pound rabbit at home, who is his best friend and often preferred to parents. On the last day of our outing, I told my son we would look for rabbits on our hike.

Jumping around the rocks, with me pointing out potential dangers, it wasn’t long before we saw a hare in the distance. I scooped up my son and began to run toward it. It was fast and scampered away, only leaving its tall, pointed ears for me to track its movement by. After a five-minute pursuit, the hare had run down an embankment. Confident we’d be close to the fluffy friend when we hit the top of the hill we were climbing, I considered putting my son down, but I hesitated.

Thank goodness.

Two steps later and we were only about 30 feet from the hare we were chasing. But it wasn’t a hare; it was a coyote. And now instead of running, it was staring back at us.

Despite knowing that hares are relatively small, I must have had my perception altered by living with an 18-pound relative for the past four years. When I saw a big brown fluffy creature in the distance with pointy ears, what else could it have been but a lagomorph like mine?

“Coyote,” I said to my son as I backed away cautiously. “No touch.”

My son said, “Cyo. No touch.” Everything’s a teaching opportunity. Thanks, Dad.

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