Memoir Writing Prompts: Rabbit, Rabbit

by Matilda Butler on August 9, 2011

Writing Prompt LogoPost #99 – Women’s Memoirs, Writing Prompt – Kendra Bonnett and Matilda Butler




Memoir Writing Prompt: An Unusual Tradition

memoir, memoir writing prompts, memoir writing, journaling, autobiography promptsLast week, we had house guests. When Ruth came into the kitchen for breakfast on the morning of August 1, she greeted me with “Rabbit, rabbit.” She then turned to my partner and said, “Rabbit, rabbit.” Following suit, I responded, “Rabbit, rabbit.” Then I asked what that meant.

“When I was growing up, my family always said those words on the first day of each month. It was our tradition,” she said.

When Ruth married, she continued the tradition and now her husband and daughter also say this each month.

Since I love stories, I immediately asked her what rabbit-rabbit means. She laughed and responded that she only learned about that recently. You know how it is with family traditions. We just do something because that’s the way it has always been done.

For instance, Lew worked for me a number of years ago. He loved to tell the story of how his wife always cut off each end of the ham before putting it in the pan and baking it in the oven. He frequently asked her why do you cut the ends off the ham. She responded, “Because my mother always did it that way.” Well, years passed and one Christmas at his mother-in-law’s home in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, he remembered to ask about the ham. His mother-in-law laughed and said she had a small pan and the ham never fit unless she cut it.

Lew was my vice-president of sales. I looked up this tradition on the Internet recently and found that it is a frequently told and retold story. I imagine Lew found multiple ways to work this story into a sales pitch to prove some point. But even though it wasn’t original with him, it shows the power of family traditions.

Ruth teaches and recently she gave her students an assignment to write about a family tradition. She gave rabbit-rabbit as an example. When she was asked about the meaning, she told the class that she didn’t really know. To her surprise, one of her student’s developed her paper by researching the history of saying rabbit, rabbit on the first of each month.

There are a number of stories but perhaps the most satisfying one is that the tradition comes from northern Europe where capturing a rabbit meant there would be food for the family and fur for warmth. Whoever said rabbit-rabbit first on the first day of the month was thought to gather the luck from everyone else. Of course, if one could catch a rabbit that probably meant there were other animals around as well, animals that would feed on rabbits. Even Shakespeare gets into this story with the following quote:

“Tis not but a mere rabbit,
For where runs the rabbit,
There ’tis the habit Of running the fox.”
– All’s Well That Ends Well, IV, iii, l.17-21.

Memoir Writing Prompt

Scratch a family tradition and you probably have the makings of an interesting story.

1. Therefore, think about a family tradition from your childhood. Does it come from a holiday? From a special occasion? Or maybe it is like Lew’s ham or Ruth’s rabbit. Write about the tradition. Did you choose to continue the tradition? Has it even been passed on to your adult children and their families? Perhaps it was time to let the tradition go. Write for 10 minutes about this tradition. Do you know where it came from? Why do you keep the tradition or why have you let it go?

memoir, memoir writing, journaling, memoir writing prompts

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