This was a lonely little bear. He arrived along with a beautiful bouquet of flowers on Australian Father’s Day 2011. The Aussies honour their dads in early September so the flowers and bear were a double treat, arriving on my birthday.
For a whole year the little bear sat on our bed waiting for some child to love him. In September 2012 he got his wish. Our youngest grandchild arrived from Melbourne. Within a couple of days she came down with stomach flu. That’s when the little bear got a lifetime of snuggles.
By the time she felt perky again, little bear had lost out to her favourite stuffed lamb. But that brief time was enough to change the bear, at least for me. He no longer sits alone on the bed. He sits in my office, reminding me of the sweet child who nibbled his ears and cuddled his soft body.
The little bear wasn’t hugged long enough to become Real in the way The Velveteen Rabbit
became real. But he was hugged long enough to remind me of this passage in Margery Williams’ classic.
“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.”
The words have always moved me, but these days they bring me to tears—not sad tears but tears of gratitude. My grey hair is not as thick as it once was, nor my eyes as sharp. My joints are stiffer than when I was younger, and body parts have shifted and sagged. But none of that matters because of the people in my life who have loved me through my good times and bad and the ones who love me now. They have brought me to age 66 feeling very Real.
So I look at the little bear, remember the visit with a sweet grandchild, and contemplate the years that brought me to this stage of Real. And I feel enormously grateful.
Everyone should have a copy of The Velveteen Rabbit. If it isn’t on your shelf, you can find it in many places. Here are two: