One of my favorite sayings is one from my friend Ms Viola Cook. At a spry ninety years old, she says, “the best part of life is living.”
Several nights ago while reading “The Velveteen Rabbit” to Max and Zach I was reminded of this saying. I’ve always loved that story; especially the conversation between the Skin Horse and the little rabbit.
“What is REAL?” asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. “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 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 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.”
” Give me my Bunny!” the boy said, ” You mustn’t say that he’s a toy. He isn’t a toy He’s REAL!” When the little Rabbit heard that, he was happy, for he knew that what the Skin Horse had said was true at last. The nursery magic had happened to him, and he was a toy no longer. He was Real, The Boy himself had said it.
I started a conversation about what it means to be real. Max was already asleep–when he gets still he can’t make himself stay awake. Zach like his mama is nocturnal. He doesn’t want to go to sleep because he is afraid he might miss some fun!
“What is real, Zach?” “You know,” he said, “when you’re alive.” “What do you mean Zach?” Like I didn’t get it, he looked at me and said, “Alive… really living.”
OK there’s living and then there’s really living. You know the difference.
* Living is a paycheck. Really living is doing something you love and you can’t believe they pay you for it, working with folks who love what they do, feeling like you are making some kind of a difference and the world is better because of what you do!
* Living is a house. Really living is a home, with 4 loads of cleaned clothes piled up in one laundry basket, loud dinners, and baseball games in the front yard with chairs as bases and everybody runs on everything. I’m sorry and I love you are spoken often, and the kitchen border is some kind of art project made with construction paper, markers and string,
* Living is a boyfriend. Really living is finding the love of your life — someone you want to share all of your life with, someone who doesn’t laugh when the new haircut didn’t turn out exactly like the hairstylist described it, someone who wants to meet your family–really your family–now that’s funny, someone who will get dressed up for a dance, take you to a fancy dinner with stuff on the menu that he can’t pronounce when they would just as soon hold your hand and walk to Dairy Queen for a chocolate dipped ice cream cone.
* Living is someone you know. Really living is having friends — friends who you sit and have coffee with and you laugh till you cry or you start to cry and they try to make you laugh; friends who get you — the no-makeup you and the Oh my what in the world I’m late and I’ve got go and I forget to say good bye late friend. Friends who don’t need to speak when yu are together for you to know how loved you are.
* Living is the perfect family picture for Christmas on the mantle. Really living is your real family — mom and dad, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, grandparents, neighbors and friends who are family… people who get your mess, who you have to text and say what did you mean by that? People who walk through the fire with you, who come over to eat birthday cake when no one else does… who help get our splinters and who know what real love is and know it can be a mess sometimes.
This kind of love lasts forever as Margery Williams in the Velveteen Rabbit reminds us. The real that once you are real you can’t be unreal again.
May we all get a little nursery magic on us …
Thoughts and prayers are with those affected by storms