“What is Real?” asked the Velveteen Rabbit to the Skin Horse.
“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.”
This wasn’t the post I planned, but it’s the post I feel I need to share. My daughter looks forward to nightly story time. All my kids do–I first read to the littles (2 and 3 year-olds) two quick stories. It takes more time with my 6 year-old who first reads me a story and then to whom I read a story.
Last night I was tired from cleaning my new classroom; irritated with my husband over his forgetting my kids’ lunches; and cranky to discover messes all over the house. I didn’t want to keep going when I got home late, but the kids needed food and showers and love. I wanted to skip storytime all together, and I managed to placate the littles when I put on a book on the IPad for them to listen to as they fell asleep, but my big girl wouldn’t hear of an electronic device replacing me.
So, I begrudgingly agreed to read to her. Though, I told her the Little Bill book she had wanted to finish reading to me would have to wait another night. She went to the bookcase and selected a story. I had told her to select a “short” one. When she came back to her twin bed, my eyes were “resting” but not for long. As soon as I saw the title of the book she selected, my eyes teared up.
My mom and my paternal grandmother always read to me. I remember with my mom a night I was very sick with a high fever and stomache pain. My mom sat up and read me Nancy Drew stories. I still have the story of the twin puppets who weren’t puppets but real children in my mind. It creeps me out still today. But, the story that I most loved hearing from both women was that of The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams.
She had to pick that one. I can barely make it through the story without choking up. Just seeing the cover page made me teary, how could I read the story of the rabbit’s journey from loneliness to friendship, loss to love, and innocence to wisdom on his way to becoming “real” without thinking of my own childhood and without hearing my mother and grandmother’s voices?
I love the story of the shy toy made of velveteen and stuffed with sawdust who longs for love. I love its message, but its emotional power comes from the emotions I feel connected to those who read it to me. I miss being read to (though it would be quite awkward to cuddle up with my mom and listen to her read to me now). I miss my grandmother who died when my daughter was just shy of a year old. I miss the people who loved me as a child and read to me even when they were tired.
I read to my daughter through my tears. She wiped my cheeks tenderly and kept telling me that “It’s ok, mom. It’s just a story.” She’s helping me on my way to becoming real.
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