Every family develops some language and phrases that can best be described as “code words.” These code words are shorthand phrases based on shared experiences. Sometimes they are just inside jokes that only family members understand.
My father and I had a few of these. Lately I’ve been remembering, “rabbit stories.” This was a common thing we said to each other. For example, I went on a job interview once where I knew the hiring manager was just lying to get me to take the job. After the interview I knew that half the things the manager promised wouldn’t ever happen. When Father asked how the interview went, I replied, “Oh just rabbit stories. I turned it down.”
Those two words, “rabbit stories,” communicated volumes between us, but few others would get the meaning.
The concept comes from one of Father’s favorite stories, “Of Mice and Men,” by John Steinbeck. We had both read the story and discussed it at length – many times. This gave us a shared experience that we could draw on. The story’s main characters are George and Lennie. George, the smart one, entertains mentally slow Lennie with stories of the farm they are going to buy and all the animals they’ll have. Lennie likes soft furry animals like rabbits and will often ask George to, “Tell me about the rabbits.”
The two characters are drifters and the story of the farm and rabbits is a bit of dramatic irony – the reader knows that there will never be a rabbit farm and the stories are just George and Lennie’s shared dream. One might argue that George knows it’s a dream and just uses the story to entertain Lennie.
Between father and I the story and the phrase, “rabbit story,” took on a meaning of being told a story that we knew would never come true. Most often I used the phrase to describe broken promises on the job and Father often used the phrase when discussing the speeches of politicians.
So listen to those around you and see if you can find the “rabbit stories.”