There was once a velveteen rabbit, and in the beginning he was really splendid. He was fat and bunchy, as a rabbit should be; his coat was spotted brown and white, he had real thread whiskers, and his ears were lined with pink sateen.
A few years ago I was really splendid. I was fat and bunchy too, and my hair shone. But then something changed.
For a long time he lived in the toy cupboard or on the nursery floor, and no one thought very much about him. He was naturally shy, and being only made of velveteen, some of the more expensive toys quite snubbed him…Between them all the poor little Rabbit was made to feel himself very insignificant and commonplace, and the only person who was kind to him at all was the Skin Horse.
When your shine disappears and your sateen starts to wear, it’s easy to feel insignificant. All the things I had been on the outside seemed to be gone, and all that was left was the threadbare version of me.
The Skin Horse had lived longer in the nursery than any of the others. He was so old that his brown coat was bald in patches and showed the seams underneath, and most of the hairs in his tail had been pulled out to string bead necklaces. He was wise, for he had seen a long succession of mechanical toys arrive to boast and swagger, and by-and-by break their mainsprings and pass away, and he knew that they were only toys, and would never turn into anything else. For nursery magic is very strange and wonderful, and only those playthings that are old and wise and experienced like the Skin Horse understand all about it.
All mothers experience this to some degree, I think. The initial boast-and-swagger clouds what is real and we stumble. We look in the mirror one day and realize the splendid version of ourselves is gone. For some, the nursery magic reveals that the mother version of ourselves in its place is actually the Real version but, for others, we think think we’ve lost ourselves and are simply gone.
I thought I wasn’t Real because I wasn’t made that way. I thought I wasn’t made to be a mother and in becoming one had lost who I truly am.
“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.”
But I didn’t have the wisdom of the Skin Horse. I wasn’t old and wise and experienced and I couldn’t see that I could, in fact, 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.”
Becoming Real did hurt. Sometimes a little bit and sometimes a lot. Most of the time I did mind, but I wasn’t Real yet.
“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.”
Over the last 3 1/2 years I have become Real, bit by bit.
I didn’t actually know it though. I thought I was unlike other mothers, the same way the Velveteen Rabbit was afraid of what the rabbits in the forest would think of him, not realizing he was in fact Real, and had hind legs just like they did.
There are still people who don’t understand, I think. Those who don’t understand why I felt as though I weren’t good enough, and those who don’t understand why I share all this here.
But the nursery magic Fairy in The Velveteen Rabbit tells the Rabbit what it is to be Real, and the reason he is Real is the same reason I am.
“You were Real to the Boy,” the Fairy said, “because he loved you.”
I know it now. Just like the Velveteen Rabbit, I have my own Boy. And I am Real because he loves me.