The Velveteen Rabbit was first published In 1922. The author, Margery Williams, was 41-years old. For anyone who missed that classic tale, it’s the story of a stuffed toy rabbit who was loved, abandoned for shinier toys, loved again, discarded and finally left to be burned.
When the Velveteen rabbit cries a real tear over his pending demise, a fairy appears and tells him that he was real to the boy who loved him but now that he’s cried a genuine tear, she would make him truly real. She keeps her word and he hops off into a field with other rabbits.
When Williams was seven-years old her beloved father, a man who encouraged both his girls to read and imagine, died. She credited her father’s encouragement for her drive to become a writer, submitting her first children’s book for publication when she was nineteen. She went on to write many books – all of them explored themes of loss, compassion and authenticity.
She maintained that it is through pain and adversity that hearts acquire greater humanity, that life’s constant change of departures and arrivals allows us to grow and persevere.
Margery Williams died at age 63. I hope, like the Velveteen Rabbit she was well-loved until the end.
I wish I could end this post right now. We could all agree that this is just a short piece about a lovely and compassionate writer and her wonderful children’s book.
Unfortunately, it’s not going to be like that.
Because the reason I’m talking about this woman and her book is that I have not been able to stop thinking about that worn-out bunny. More and more I am feeling like that damned rabbit...before he hops off, fully-realized and freshly minted, into that bucolic bunny field.
I am definitely feeling like the abandoned bunny, the one with the missing bits of velvet.
Each day I am stunned to find another part of me that reminds me of a well-worn rabbit and, my mother. New spots appear on the backs of my hands, the furrows on my forehead etch deeper each day, the sun damage flares up in new patches, my shoes feel further away then the day before, and then, oh my, there is the added indignity of thinning hair.
Now. I don’t need a lecture. I don’t need a pep talk. I am quite reconciled to this process.
These are just the facts ma’am, just the facts. Besides, I’m always the first one to say that aging is a gift denied to so many…yadda, yadda…blah…blah. I know I can be very annoying with my optimism. Trust me, I annoy myself.
But can we agree that time is a funny construct? I have often wondered at the images chosen for obituaries. Some choose decades-old photos to represent the deceased; the young man in a military outfit tells us of the death of a 93-year old or an image of a young woman in a wedding dress informs us of the death of an 85-year old.
But which image of ourselves is the truth?
I promise I’m not whining about these aging processes, it is more a rumination about the surprise of it all. Like those obituary photo choices, I feel like I look out of this body from timeless eyes and it is always a shock to see the mirror’s version of me reflected back.
Mercifully, I am mostly quite amused by the whole thing. No less than the venerable Martin Amis said, “And meanwhile time goes about its immemorial work of making everyone look and feel like shit.”
That. That quote makes me laugh out loud.
And it’s moments like that, whenever I forget myself, when I’m snorking at a joke, or standing rapt as I watch a toddler bumbling along with his stumpy feet, or when I see the enthusiasm of a dog chasing a stick or a duck quacking a classic Grouch Marx waa waa waa...it is in those beautiful moments that I am tapped into my joy and love of the timelessness of this world.
Which is precisely when I finally forget about that busted-up bunny and I remember: worn velvet or not, I am so lucky to be real and fundamentally ageless.
“As you get older; you’ve probably noticed that you tend to forget things.
You’ll be talking with somebody at a party, and you’ll know that you know this person,
but no matter how hard you try, you can’t remember his or her name.
This can be very embarrassing, especially if he or she turns out to be your spouse.”
― Dave Barry