Thursday, October 20, 2005

Real

~~~~~~~
"What is REAL?" asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side. "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 very 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. "But 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 often happen to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have been 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."


-- Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit
~~~~~~~


He was made of some sort of chenille material, which I'm sure was white at one time. My grandmother made him for my brother, and my brother never took to him. So he was passed down to me. My Bunny. He went with me everywhere, he was always by my side. I loved him limp and threadbare. Mom had to sneak him away from me to wash, usually through the night as I slept, when he got too filthy, sour and rancid for anyone but me to stand.

When I was around five, he was in such a worn state that Mom commissioned Grandma to make a new coat for Bunny. I don't know how she got the toy out of my clutches but I remember waiting for my Bunny to come back with mad anticipation. I missed him so! When Grandma brought him back to me, he looked brand spanking new. The matted, motheaten, dingy coat I had known was replaced with velvety chocolate brown velour. She had embroidered a cute pink face, crocheted an adorable Quaker-style neck bowtie for him, and stitched my intital over his heart. On his bottom was a poofy handmade pink pompom yarn tail.

I was not pleased. This wasn't the Bunny I knew.

My Mom and my Grandma, two wise and wonderful women, had a talk with me that day. They told me that though Bunny looked different on the outside, he was the same on the inside. He still loved me, he missed me and was happy to be with me again. It would hurt him if I didn't love him anymore.

That was all I needed to hear. I'd never want to hurt my Bunny.

He was such a simple thing. Some scraps of cloth and yarn. Old nylons for his stuffings. Rather old fashioned looking, actually. But never a thing in my little life was treasured more. Something about the whole of those elements of his being were more than the sum of his parts. Somewhere in there resided a heart and soul. My friend, my comfort, my keeper of secrets, my protector from the closet monster. I slept with him well into my teens, truth be told. And when I moved away, he went with me. Over the years of my life, the road has often proven more rocky and potholed than I could have foreseen. There are few items I have kept with me from the beginning, but those that I have are most powerful to me. God. My family. A few good friends. And Bunny.

As I grew into an adult, I let go of the belief in the talisman-like power of Bunny. I didn't sleep with him anymore, and oftentimes he spent his days quietly waiting for my attention in a box or drawer. But having him close to me gave me that same feeling of comfort - some spidersilk line back to simpler days when merely having him in my arms healed the troubles afflicting me.

I am in my mid-thirties now, and my own little boy has selected a big floppy Elmo, nearly as tall as he, in which to bestow this special gift of a child's love and affection. I watch him interact with Elmo, and reflect fondly on the special place Bunny had in my childhood.

I still have Bunny - he resides atop my wardrobe, watching over our bedroom. Ever present as he has always been, and within arms reach at a moment's notice, should I ever be inclined to regress. The fuzz of the velour has been nearly worn off. The pink yarn has faded to a dull beige with years of kisses and cuddles and travels. The tail is mashed flat and resembles more of a sea urchin than anything else. But to me, he is beautiful.

He is Real. He always was.

14 comments:

martie said...

Thank you for this wonderful, insightful story into a part of your childhood I would never have known had you not chose to share. You are very gifted, dear friend!

Bainwen Gilrana said...

I have an old stuffed dog puppet who has been with me for years. My mom used to make her "talk" to me at bedtime when I was a little kid. Its clothes are faded and the elastic has stretched out long ago. She's a battered and pathetic looking sort of doggie these days. But these days, being alone at bedtime for the first time in five years, my doggie lives in my bed again. I need that comfort and that link back to what I used to be.

I'm 28 years old, and "The Velveteen Rabbit" still makes me cry.

I'll just wander off and be embarrassed now.

Lori said...

I love this! It reminds me of "Alice". She was my doll from childhood, head flopped to one side, hair half gone and what was left of it, sticking every which way. One arm was hanging limply, taped with a thick, white tape that had grown grubby and sticky through the years. But my daughter absolutely loved her. She went everywhere with us and finally one day I took her to the doll shop to be repaired as I was afraid she would fall apart before our eyes. She was never the same for my little girl after that. I should have left well-enough alone. But your account is absolutely precious. I can so relate to this with my own treasures.

Everyone needs a "Bunny."

The Humanity Critic said...

great insight.

McSwain said...

This made me cry. My son has worn out The Velveteen Rabbit videotape! We have a little stuffed panda named "Baby Jake." Sometimes I swear it's got human qualities.

Nicole said...

Your story reminds me of one of our favorite bed time books...Franklin loses his beloved blue blanket & cannot sleep. His father takes out his old yellow blanket to help ease his loss till they find his new one. The moral of the story being "Isn't it a beautiful thing to live in a home where even an old worn out blanket has it's place."

It's good to know that your son will also grow up in a home where even a worn out old bunny (or elmo) has it's place.

Thank you for sharing,

Nicole

TC said...

This post made me cry. It is just beautiful. My Little Princess has two teddies that reside on her pillow. I hope that when she is grown they too have the place of honor in her room reserved for only the best of friends.

JenCB said...

And what of Bertram? Does Bunny share a spot on his perch with him?

Beautiful writing, Clew. I do have to wonder about the unique-ness of Bunny vs. the mass-producedness of Elmo. How many children are loving Elmo? If the boy accidently leaves his Elmo at home, but goes to play at a friend's house who also has an Elmo, does he confide his deepest thoughts with it as well?

Now you have me thinking. That's always a good thing. ;)

naive-no-more said...

This is a beautiful "feel-good" post, with a hint of sadness (for me). The passing of time and how a young girls love and innocence has to grow and mature and morph into adult wisdome.

Touching, truly.

Is this where your love of bunnies began?

Rebecca said...

My little boy still has his "baby bear"...she's going to need some patching soon! And my daughter has her Connie the Cow, who she's far more attached to than my son is to "baby bear"... Fortunately, hers is a Gund that I might be able to replace if lost. "Baby bear" is irreplaceable, so surgery will always be required. :)

I had a crocheted "Winnie" my mom made for me when I was a little girl. She wasn't even traditional Winnie colors, but that's what I called her and loved her. I wish I still had her - but I was nomadic once I turned 18, and Winnie got lost somewhere along the way. Quite unusual for someone as sentimental as I am...Maybe someday my mom will surprise me and show me Winnie tucked away somewhere... :)

Sumeeta said...

Gosh, this is so beautifully written. It really invokes the innocence of childhood and the beauty of childhood imagination. It is sad that we lost that as adults, but your post reminded me of my own childhood attachments.

Bougie Black Boy said...

This is wonderful. The unintentional (?) allegory created here is amazingly pure, while capturing the innocence of children and of adults, alike.

echotig said...

Oh man. I got tears. Very good post! very very good.

Harry Yak said...

here i come to post some witty and super clevery comment on your blog and after reading your post i'm so moved, so deeply impressed with you and you writting that all i can say is how wonderful that post was.