For my granddaughter Isabel.

In the neighborhood of Vedado, there was a prestigious store where they prepared food for delivery to homes (gourmet service).  After some years of abandonment, in the year 1966, in the same place, a beautiful English-style red cake restaurant was opened, called The Little Rabbit (El Conejito), where they sold all kinds of dishes exquisitely ready-made from the meat of this little animal.  Soon the cozy and handsome local place was celebrated for the quality of its offerings and its friendly environment.

Getting a reservation for it became an arduous task.  The only way to get one was to call by telephone looking for an available opening.  Sometimes, you could spend all day and not succeed in getting connected, because there were hundreds of calls taking place almost in unison.  There were some who were lucky and got ahold of them right away, but they were in the minority.  Others spent up to two days trying, and when finally they got a time, they called on precisely the same day that they couldn’t go, or that they didn’t want to eat rabbit.  Although those cases were the most rare, because it was so scarce that food any day was good and if, by chance, you were sick, it didn’t matter, you wouldn’t eat but bring a bag, and throw the rations in a little sack, to bring home like a trophy and share with the rest of the family, since the reservation that you had secured was for a table for two.

I tell you this, because your great-grandmother lived in another neighborhood, in a very beautiful house with a lovely garden, where the principal decoration was a pretty white rabbit with red crystal eyes.  It was so well made that the little animal seemed real.  Everyone that passed by in front of the house, stopped a few seconds looking at it as if they were waiting, for any moment, for the rabbit to jump. But it seemed to be a happy thing, enjoying its inertia in the green grass.

One day, your great-grandmother heard a discussion at the wrought iron grille door at the entrance to the house, and when she went out to see what had happened, she saw a man and a woman arguing vehemently.  As soon as they noticed her presence, without wanting it, they involved her in the discussion, the man asking her the following question: “Lady, do you believe that woman should behave like that with me, when I only wanted to make a joke?” “I don’t understand,” Mama Nene answered.  Then the angry woman intervened, “Look, this man here, my husband, told me: put on your elegant black dress; I am going to take you to the Little Rabbit.  And look where he brought me?”

Don’t put it like that, my mom said.  He only wanted to play a joke.  “Listen lady, what joke are you speaking about, he made me hurry to wash and iron the only elegant dress that fit me.  You don’t do that to anyone, much less to me that has to whip up a dish every day to put on the table!”

My mom, embarrassed by what just happened and feeling a little to blame for being the owner of the controversial little rabbit, told them to sit on the porch and brought them each a little cup of steaming hot coffee.  Now more calm, the couple were sent off apologizing and thankful for the attentiveness given out by the owner of the house.

Years later, someone tried to steal the rabbit and broke it trying to dig it up, fleeing without accomplishing his objective, and leaving it damaged in the garden.  My mother moved it to a corner of the patio, and since then it has been forgotten waiting to be repaired.  The same has happened to the famous restaurant that has turned into a low-class one.  Both rabbits can say, they shared almost the same luck.

 Translated by: BW

June 21 2011

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