"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
As I type up this blog post, the most curious figure is sitting on my bed. A small, worn, almost threadbare toy. Or perhaps I should say friend. This shabby once-playmate of mine hardly resembles a cat anymore, having been so mauled and loved over the years that she’s nearly entirely lost her shape. But perhaps I shouldn’t be so harsh. She’s looking at me rather accusingly at the moment, as if to say, “And whose fault is it that I look this way?” I always did say she had the saddest expression of any stuffed toy I’ve ever seen. It’s as easy as anything to imagine her stalking to the end of the bed, curling her tail around her haunches, and purring; perhaps because I’ve been doing it for over eighteen years.
I remember the first time I saw her, fluffy and new with a pink ribbon around her neck, on a store shelf. “Oh, Mommy, Mommy! I want that!” Mom looked at the kitty on the shelf, looked at me, and questioned, “Are you really going to play with it?” “Oh yes, Mommy! I promise I’ll play with it every day!” I begged. I kept my promise, too, right up until I deemed myself too old for stuffed playthings. Fur-Ears went everywhere with me. She slept in my bed, where I would make little burrows for her under the covers until I fell asleep. She traveled from Newfoundland to British Colombia with me, alternately sitting in my lap, “sleeping” on top of the luggage, or sitting in the rear window of the car so she could “see” the view. I never would have subjected her to the indignity of traveling in a suitcase; besides, she might have smothered!
The first time I read the book The Velveteen Rabbit, I identified with it immediately. During the most poignant scene in the book, the little Rabbit asks, “What is ‘Real’? Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?” The old, worn-out Skin Horse replies, “Real isn’t how you are made. 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… but once you are Real you can’t become unreal again. It lasts for always.”
I think that’s why I keep Fur-Ears around, even after all these years. Even with her faded pink ribbon, pink paw-pads that have turned gray over the years, thread coming out of her ears and tail, plastic whiskers long gone (clipped off by Mom because they poked my face in the night when I cuddled with her), and floppy brown ears, there’s a certain wisdom in those green eyes that still shine despite the nicks and scratches. When I was a child, Fur-Ears was as real as any real-life playmate. And everyone knows, you don’t discard your friends just because they’re old and lose their beauty.
I think there’s a lesson to be learned here as well, and perhaps two: An old, familiar friend is a wonderful thing to have, and we must always remember that no matter how shabby or worn-out or forgotten we may feel, there is Someone Who makes us Real, and who loves us despite the ugly and tattered parts of our lives.
“When you are Real, shabbiness doesn’t matter.” ~The Velveteen Rabbit.