I don’t remember his name anymore but he was my constant companion until the age of seven. I would take him everywhere and would not sleep without him beside me.
To this day, I can still recall the softness of his fur and his light brown eyes that would seemingly glow in the dark as we stared at each other. I would tell him stories about my day, and make up dialogue in my head of him answering me. We would trade stories until I fell asleep. His face was the first one I would see each morning.
He stayed with me until I passed him on to my younger brother with great reluctance. Unfortunately, my brother had a thing for chewing fur. And soon enough, my little Koala bear became worn out at the ears from my baby brother’s constant gnawing.
When I think of him now as I write this, I am reminded of the beautiful children’s story by Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit. There is wonderful quote from that story book that speaks about aging and authenticity which I like to read from time to time especially now that I have reached the half-century mark.
“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.”
― Margery Williams,
The Velveteen Rabbit is a beautiful tale that must be read by children and adults, especially those among us who are on the verge of empty-nesting or are already there. The mid-life years, the phase in between creating a nest and emptying it is like a transition period from becoming parents to becoming real. You love until it hurts, you remain strong because you have children who depend on you, and so you cannot break. “Once you are Real you can’t become unreal again — It lasts for always.”
And it’s a really wonderful place to be.