I thought I had lost my copy.
I wasn’t searching for it tonight, either.
But there it was…hiding on my living room bookshelf the whole time.
I had forgotten about the burn pile. The part where the Rabbit is thrown on a rubbish heap as part of the purging of the “nursery” after the boy in the story contracts scarlet fever. At this point, Em asked me to stop reading. I looked over at her, and she was starting to cry. I insisted we finish the story, asking her to listen, to trust me.
I didn’t know much about author Margery Williams, that she lost her father at seven, Emma’s age. I’ve learned that Williams was a believer in change–that she saw the process as something allowing us to grow and persevere…that a greater depth of humanity is acquired through pain and adversity. The Velveteen Rabbit or How Toys Become Real was published in 1922 and became an instant classic.
I had also completely forgotten about the very last page and almost missed it, having found resolution in the Rabbit’s newly discovered hind feet. But the last page is where Rabbit returns to get another look at the boy responsible for making him real. What a sweet ending to a story that continues to resonate with timely themes throughout its simple prose.
“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 often happen 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.”