Friday, April 19, 2013

What Is 'Real'?

The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams is one of my all-time favorite books.  So simple, yet complex.  A short little read, but there is such depth to it.  It can be read and reread and always something new will pop out at you.  It’s one of those books that as an author, you think to yourself, ‘If only I had written that!’  Knowing, of course, that Margery Williams was the best writer of it because it was truly hers.  She felt it.  It came from her.  It came from her eyes and from her heart and from her soul.

One of my favorite passages from the book is a conversation between Rabbit and the Skin Horse on what is real?  How do you know if you’re real or not?  What does it feel like?  What does it look like?

The passage goes like this . . .

“What is REAL?" asked the Velveteen Rabbit one day... "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 [someone] 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... once you are Real you can't become unreal again. It lasts for always.”
― Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit or How Toys Become Real

“Once you are Real you can’t become unreal again.  It lasts for always.”

I think that’s my second favorite line.

Hannah has Bunny and Bear.  I can’t tell you how many times Bunny had her ears sown back up.  She had a whole new face put on, along with an arm and a leg.  But Bunny is Bunny.  For nineteen years, Hannah has loved Bunny, taken her on overnights and vacations and is at college with her as I write this.  Bear was the first gift my wife had given me when we had first started dating.  It didn’t take long for Hannah to ‘adopt’ Bear as her own.  Bear’s fur has disappeared in spots.  Bear’s button-eyes are a bit scratched.  I remember sewing some stitches here and there.  But like Bunny, Bear has been on sleep-overs, vacations and is at college alongside Bunny.

“Once you are Real you can’t become unreal again.  It lasts for always.”

I’d say that Bunny and Bear are pretty real.  I look at Bunny and Bear and I see Hannah.  I love Bunny and Bear because I love Hannah.  Bunny and Bear are as Real to me as Hannah is.

My favorite line from Velveteen Rabbit?

“. . . once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand . . .”

Pat was my secretary once upon a time when I was a counselor.  She had developed arthritis and was in so much pain that she had trouble walking, especially up and down stairs.  She used to say that she and her husband would grow “lumpy together.”  She would say that with a self-depreciating laugh, always poking fun at herself.

“Lumpy together.”

My hope for you this day, and each day, every day, is that you find someone in your life with whom you can grow ‘lumpy together’ with.  Because if you do, you will be forever happy, forever accepted.  You’ll find that you can carry on conversations in silence, with a look, with a touch.  If you find someone with whom you can grow ‘lumpy together’ with, you will know you are always loved.  Always loved.  Always!

Mostly, if you’re ‘lumpy together’, then I believe . . . “you are Real and you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand . . .” Something to think about . . .

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!


  1. I hope you are keeping a collection of these stories to compile in a book one day. They are very touching.

  2. I can't count how many times I have read that to my children. My mother and father read it to me countless times; it is a favorite of ours. I have someone Real and to grow lumpy with. He is Real and I have loved off his fur (balding) :) I would choose him over and over again. He is my favorite friend. We laugh at things others don't and we would rather be with each other than anyone else anytime. He is Real and beautiful. I feel that it is safe to say that in his eyes I am Real. Besides, over the years most of my "stuffing" has been squeezed into my lower half! Ha!


Thank you for your comment. I welcome your thought. Joe