One of my favorite children’s books will always be The Velveteen Rabbit.
A toy velveteen rabbit longs to be loved, and he begins to experience this when a boy adopts him as his favorite toy. But the rabbit wonders about “real” after meeting two rabbits with feet that pad softly on the ground and with noses that twitch. He learns that he can’t jump like the other rabbits and that he smells different. It’s only when a mysterious nursery fairy kisses him that the velveteen rabbit learns finally what it’s like to be real—not just to the boy, but to everyone.
If you have never read it, you really should. It is enchanting and I promise you are not too old.
As the description suggests, the toy bunny wants to understand “real” and asks one of the oldest, wisest, toys in the nursery about it.
“What is REAL?” asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?”
“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”
“Does it hurt?”
“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”
“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”
“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”
The Velveteen Rabbit. Public Domain Books.
I am real. I sometimes have to remind myself of that. Perhaps some of you were able to join me and two of my author friends, Sue-Ellen Welfonder and Kate Robbins on Monday night for our “Girls Night Out” party. In case you missed it, the three of us went out to dinner and invited our readers to join us “virtually” on Facebook. We posted photos, games and trivia questions and at the end of the night gave away some prizes. I had a wonderful time and I suspect many of our readers did as well.
I am not perfect. In fact, I am a little shabby but I am proud to be Real. I live my life in the open, sharing myself with my friends and readers. I don’t hide behind an ancient photo taken when I was younger, thinner, and firmer or pretend to set the perfect example. I am not one of the beautiful women I create, but then, they aren’t Real, are they? Like the Skin Horse said, when you are Real even if you have become loose in the joints and shabby, “these things don’t matter at all.”
It takes time to become real and sometimes it is a bit painful. It doesn’t happen to people who “break easily” or “have to be carefully kept.” It also takes wisdom to recognize the value in being Real, and to know that “once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”
Here’s to all of you who are Real, who don’t break easily and embrace life in all of its imperfections.