Malgorzata Wroblewska-Nuwer (Gosia Nuwer) in Scottsdale, January of 2024, to visit architect Frankl Lloyd Wright’s home.


By Hank Nuwer

Whether by blood or by marriage, I have been cursed all my life with family that make nice things with no effort.

I, on the other hand, grew up artistically challenged.

I became aware of this deficiency in the second grade.

One summer I labored in the garage with my dad’s hammer, saw, nails, and hand drill.

After two days, I completed my project. I showed off the treasure.

“That’s nice,” my mother said charitably. “But what is it?”

“It’s a birdhouse, of course.”

My father laughed for two minutes straight.

“No self-respecting bird ever would go into that thing,” he said.

Bang. I tossed my masterpiece into the trash bin.

My teacher then was Sister Mary Restituta, who had an odd name for a Polish nun. She had moved to the U.S. following the Second World War.

Instead of claiming a saint’s name like Agnes or Rita like her peers, she appropriated her name from the “Order of Polonia Restituta,” the Polish state’s “Order of the Rebirth of Poland,: that came into being in honor of a short-lived independence.

One day, she informed us kids that our assignment for Easter was to all complete the same project.

We were to create an Easter bunny out of thick thread, coloring crayons, sewing needle, scissors, pipe cleaners, straw stuffing, and a giant brown shopping bag.

Which, I recall, was an assignment handed down one day and due the next.

This was way before the days of one-stop shopping.

My mother didn’t drive. So, she made my father drive her from drugstore to sewing shop to anywhere open to fill the mandatory scavenger list. He’d had a long day as a truck driver, but he didn’t argue with my mother.

Before closing time at the last shop, we had all on the list.

Sister Restituta had spent her evening making a sample Easter rabbit. Rodin. Couldn’t have done better.

She held up her prize and told us to have at it. There were no instructions.

We all started out the same. We drew the front of the rabbit on one side of the paper bag. We turned it over and drew the other side.

We cut out the two outlines.

Mine looked less like a rabbit and more like a target on a shooting range.

The teeth looked like those goofy wax teeth we kids all wore at Halloween. I’d drawn a big body first, and so I had no more space for ears. I gave my bunny tiny, drooping ears like a field mouse.

We kids turned into little Rembrandts and colored each side.

Sister Restituta, a six-footer, walked among us between old-fashioned desks with ink wells.

“Nice, nice,” she’d say to one. Or encouragingly, “you almost have it.”

Some eager beavers even added a real carrot.

I received the shortest comment. “Oh, dear,” she said.

I dutifully sewed up both sides of my rabbit carcass.

Then, when I was done, I remembered I forgot to stuff it with the straw from my grandfather’s barn we had appropriated.

I had to take out all the lining, and stuff my poor rabbit. It started bursting at the seams.

In went the straw, and I worked with the needle and thread for the second time.

“Times up,” shouted Sister Restituta.

“Whaa, whaa?” We were on a deadline? Who knew?

She told us to take the pipe cleaner and to fashion a loop on the back of Bunny. The nun said we all would hang ours from the corkboard.

One by one, my classmates strode to the board. One by one, the rabbits went up.

This took around two hours because we had 40 to 45 kids in our overcrowded, post-WWII class.

The non-parochial schools in my hometown were teaching arithmetic, reading, geography and history.

We Catholics kids, on the other hand, would be super prepared when it came time to take the SATS in bunny making.

I was last at the blackboard.

My rabbit looked like a fat kid who had lost a fight. Straw stuck out of every seam. A couple of the girls were laughing. It looked frankly goofy with huge buck teeth and little yellow corn niblets for ears.

I tried to hand it over to my teacher.

Sister Restitua said something to me. I must have heard her wrong..

“You can take yours home,” she said.

On my way home, I dropped that stupid bunny like a rock into a neighbor’s garbage can.

My mother said what I expected when I got home.

“What did you do in school all day?” she said.

“I played a guessing game.”

“I thought you were making an Easter bunny in class.”

“That’s right,” I said, and marched to the refrigerator to drown my sorrows with cold milk.