Monday, November 19, 2012
What is Real?
Today came on the heels of a rough few days. On Friday, I went to bed at 7:30 and didn't emerge until 4p on Saturday. I just felt like hiding.
To continue the theme, I spent today puttering. I drank tea, watched Ricki Lake (she's back, people), and ate cheese. I squeezed in between Pancho and Toastie and tried to become one with the couch. (Inanimate objects have it made.)
I thought about ridiculous things, like the blue fairy from Pinocchio, the one who makes him a real boy. I spent a good chunk of the afternoon researching her.
I started feeling stiff, so I took a turn around the apartment for some exercise. There was a piece of paper on the floor, folded up, which I had been ignoring. I picked it up, unfolded it, and began to cry.
This is what it said:
"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?" asked the Rabbit.
"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."
"I suppose you are real?" said the Rabbit. And then he wished he had not said it, for he thought the Skin Horse might be sensitive. But the Skin Horse only smiled.
"The Boy's Uncle made me Real," he said. "That was a great many years ago; but once you are Real you can't become unreal again. It lasts for always."
This text, a section from The Velveteen Rabbit, was read by my beautiful sister Penelope at my and Matt's wedding in 2010. This paper is the print-out I gave her to read from. I have no idea how it wound up in the middle of the floor two years later, but as someone who's hair has been rubbed off, and who's joints feel loose, I'm so glad it did.