Becoming Real according to Skin Horse


The hospital is auctioning off baskets compiled by various departments to benefit the March of Dimes. One basket was in the office of one of the volunteer staff. As I talked to her, I noticed it was a Spring rabbit theme and the book of the Velveteen Rabbit by Marjorie Williams was included.

I couldn’t help myself. I reached down and lovingly took the book in my hands and began searching. When I taught third grade it was one of the books we read. It is probably my favorite book of all. I was looking for the part of the book that means the most to me. At last I found it. Rabbit and the Skin Horse are talking.

“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 Skin Horse Tells His Story

“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.

“The Rabbit sighed. He thought it would be a long time before this magic called Real happened to him. He longed to become Real, to know what it felt like; and yet the idea of growing shabby and losing his eyes and whiskers was rather sad. He wished that he could become it without these uncomfortable things happening to him.

I love that part of the story because I believe that Williams was talking about human beings. It is much easier for people who have children who love them to become Real. I often think that as my son was growing up I didn’t give him as many opportunities as I could have or should have to love me. As a single working mother who taught, I often spent more time dealing with the problems of my students rather than giving him the attention that he deserved. I think that is why I want grandchildren in my life so much. I want the opportunity to have a second chance to be Real. Even if that event comes to pass, I don’t see how it would be possible to be in their daily lives other than via skype. For that I am sad.

I’ve known so many people with sharp edges, who break easily, and have to be carefully kept. All we have to do is look around. With our emphasis on youth and external beauty, far too many desire to maintain the outside rather than to soften the inside. Yes, even I use Olay.

I’ve tried to file down the sharp edges and not break as easily as I once did. It takes a lot longer without daily doses of love, but I’m working on it. Before I leave this planet I want someone to point out that I have become Real. It’s a goal.

People have been brought into my life in the last few years whom I consider to be very Real. I’ve been given an opportunity to get to know them. Some have been in my life forever, some I’ve known about twenty-five or so years, some are neighbors, some are relatives, some are friends I’ve met in the past five years. I am so blessed to have them in my life. It hasn’t been easy for any of them, but now that they are Real, they are that way the rest of their lives. Namaste. Attic Annie

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