What is Real?

16 December 2013

When thinking of what to give my four year old nephew, Mason, for the holidays, I thought of my own childhood memories and what I might be able to instill in him as well.  One story that has always stuck with me is the classic: The Velveteen Rabbit.


You can probably recall the gist of the classic children’s novel: a little boy with ample amounts of toys, trades in his Velveteen rabbit for something a little snazzier, a little fancier–something, well, just newer.  The pizazz of the new toy doesn’t last long and soon enough the old rabbit comes back to comfort and sooth the little boy.

I thought about Mason at Christmas opening up present after present, more likely to be interested in the wrapping paper than the actual gift inside,  wondering when he’ll have the “grass is greener on the other side outlook,” that seems so apparent these days.  I know, I too often fall victim to this as well.

I re-read the story and am on the hunt for a first edition for Mason’s permanent book collection now.  It’s such a simple lesson, but one I do believe we have to remind ourselves of quite often.  Here’s my favorite excerpt, and, if you have a few minutes, listen to Meryl Streep in a very very English voice (was it always this English?) narrate the story here; it’s only a few minutes.

“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.”

Parting words:

Do you have a favorite children’s book?
Check out Books you should read at least once, including #119: The Velveteen Rabbit.
Rumor has it: Drake’s favorite book is the Velveteen Rabbit.
featured image by Cinderella Moments.


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