Princess the Velveteen Cat

One of the most beautiful lessons on real beauty came to me as a child.  Sealed in the story of a child’s stuffed animal, the lesson has clung to me ever since like velveteen on 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 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 your 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.”


“I suppose you are real?” said the Rabbit. And then he wished he had not said it, for he thought the Skin Horse might be sensitive. But the Skin Horse only smiled.


“The Boy’s Uncle made me Real,” he said. “That was a great many years ago; but once you are Real you can’t become unreal again. It lasts for always.”


~ From “The Velveteen Rabbit” or “How Toys Become Real” by Marjorie Williams

* * * * * * * * * *

My daughter’s favorite lovie was Princess, a snowy white, acrylic fur security blanket.  When she was two, Rachel first found Princess lounging atop a specialty store’s makeshift bed.  She was grand and regal and dreamy.  I misread her price tag as $125 and believed it–it was that kind of store.  When my daughter’s grandfather discovered it was actually $25, it was hers.  For the next eight years, Princess rarely left her side.

Over time Princess lost her outward beauty.  She wasn’t meant for the washing machine, but two stomach bugs would suggest otherwise.  Long before that, though, she had become real, infused with life because of the love poured into her.

She has never been more beautiful to me than she is present day, ratty and matted and missing an eye.  Battered and beleaguered, her body tells a thousand stories, beginning and ending with a little girl’s affections.

Like the moon reflects sun’s brilliance, Princess radiates love’s glory.

The beauty of beholder and beheld.

Revised from The Beauty of Becoming Real originally published for Therapon, December 2010

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