“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.”
Years ago, on my 10th birthday I received a book called Beauty, Brave and Beautiful. It was a book I’d randomly pulled off the shelf at my school library and fell in love with. It’s about a scraggly looking dog that lives in the woods and befriends a couple kids. They name her Beauty, even though she is far from that. When Beauty attacks a bear to save the children, they are afraid she’s been killed, when really she just played dead. The town erects a statue in her honor, and when the children describe Beauty, they talk about her straight legs, and big, bushy tail. She’s beautiful, in their eyes.
When Beauty wanders into the town square one day, the children recognize her, and are thrilled. Though the townspeople are, at first, disgusted by the scraggly dog, they eventually come around, and stop seeing her crooked tail, and big red nose. They start seeing the beautiful dog the children see.
The next year, I was given a stuffed Beauty, by my grandmother. Oh, how I loved that dog. I slept with her every night, even through college (don’t judge)!
Somewhere along the line, Beauty went from fluffy and chubby to gray, drab, the stuffing squashed together so she was much thinner. The velvet on her nose had long since been rubbed off, and there is a chip on her nose where she hit the wall one night, when I was swinging her around by the tail. One ear fell off and has been re-sewn on, and her yarn mouth is torn and hanging, not to mention the lines around her eyes. And yet, I still love her, to death. I don’t see the Beauty you do, I see a beautiful, wonderful dog of my childhood. I see a dog I cried into, a dog I hugged close when I was scared, and every night. I see a dog who has always reminded me of my childhood, and was something I clung to in the first few weeks of college.
Somewhere along the line, and I don’t know when, Beauty became Real.
For my birthday my grandmother gave me the only other Beauty we’ve ever seen. Though she’s made by Russ, Beauty was unique and I’ve never seen another like her. My grandmother found one years ago, and sent her to me this year. Now, Beauty sits by the fire place, my old, ratty, Real Beauty, and her counterpart, Elvis, but a pale memory of what once was.
Because Beauty, my Beauty, is Real.