Friday, April 9, 2010

Words of Wisdom from The Velveteen Rabbit

James and I read The Velveteen Rabbit today. I hadn't read it to him before and he loved it. He declared it one of the best stories we've read.
I had forgotten how beautiful it is. It made me cry. More than once.

I like a children's book that has as much to offer to the child as it does to the adult. I like a children's book that doesn't talk down to kids, or explains everything to him. I like real vocabulary. I like a story that pulls you in and stirs your emotions.
I like literature. I like literature for children.

You can call me a book snob and I'd be proud. When I let the kids pick one "junk" book from the library and they pick Dora or The Backyardigans, those books make me cry. But only because they are so terrible. I mean really, how many time do we have to hear Dora's map say, "I'm the map?" Apparently about a billion.

I am not trying to offend any die hard Dora fans here, it is just that I want to offer my kids the best. And frankly, if I am reading to them, I want to enjoy the experience too.

Enter The Velveteen Rabbit.
From the very beginning, this book had me thinking.
Listen to this:
When the Velveteen Rabbit asked the Skin Horse what it meant to be real, this was the Skin Horse's answer.
"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. "But 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 is 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 the people who don't understand."
I could hardly make it through that paragraph I was so choked up.
It made me think about 2 things.

The first was growing old.
My great-grandma, Grandma Novak, was one of the sweetest ladies I have ever known. She was my Dad's grandma and from Tennessee. I was lucky enough to get to know her when she came out here to live with my grandma and grandpa.
I remember her so well. She had soft white hair and despite her frail hands, she still sewed quilts and embroidered beautifully. She sat in her chair in the front room most of the time. She nodded off often. She was always so, so happy to see us. She hugged us tight and talked to us. She cared about us. I loved her a lot.
But one of my most dear memories of her doesn't even involve me directly. It actually involved one of my cousins. Marianne was pretty little when Grandma Novak lived with Babci and Dziadzi. Her favorite thing to do was to sit on Grandma Novak's lap and stroke the soft, loose skin under Grandma's chin.
And Grandma didn't flinch, or tell her "no! You can't touch that! Don't you know how disgusting my old skin is?" She just held Marianne and rocked her and loved her. She was happy to love and to be loved.
I will never forget that.

We are so worried about growing old. We fight it every step of the way. I know. I already look at my wedding pictures from 13 years ago and can't believe how young I looked.
But if, as we age, we are careful not too have sharp edges, or to break easily, we will have lived a life time of being loved. And our bodies may look worn, but we will have been loved. And maybe we'll be sitting in a rocker, holding our great grand baby and we'll know that a little loose skin isn't all that important.

The second was my Mom body.
Boy do those words of falling out hair and loose joints hit close to home. Also, a baby belly, bags under my eyes, sagging breasts and baby weight I haven't lost this time because I am not nursing. It is not fun.

We do so much, as soon as our babies are born to get rid of our mom bodies. Or, if we don't actually do anything about it, we sure think about it. We talk about it. We obsess about it. But really, we should embrace it. Our bodies have created a baby, carried a baby, nourished a baby and we will never be the same.
Please don't misinterpret me, I am not saying we should stop taking care of ourselves and hang onto that 30 or 40 pounds of baby weight. However, wishing our bodies would be the same as they were before a baby is a waste of time.
You are a mommy now and you will be for the rest of your life. You are changed.
You are Real.

It is so easy to focus on our outward appearance, isn't it? We want to emphasize the things that don't matter. But in the end, all that really matters is if you were loved.
No one will say, "wow, she got back into shape so fast after she had her babies."
But they will say, "her kids really loved her."

Even if you don't have a little boy or girl to read The Velveteen Rabbit to, you should go to the library and check it out for yourself.
Sometimes we all need a reminder of what really matters in life.

Love Greta


Betsi said...

Beautiful. Just beautiful. My husband changed my whole view of my "baby body" after I had our second child. I was in front of the mirror, bemoaning my many new stretch marks. He put his arms around me and said,
"When I see your stretch marks, what I see is a champion. Someone who has done an amazing thing. They're like battle scars. You've done it. You've sacrificed. You brought life to another human being."
Now when I look at my stomach I hear those words. I will never be embarrassed by them again.

Naomi said...

So sweet Greta, loved this post :)

Tammy Callis said...

Beautiful and so true Greta!

The Velveteen Rabbit is the very first story that I read to Magnolia that made her cry. It was wonderful to watch a beautiful piece of literature touch her so dearly.

Erin McDonald said...

Amen! Thanks for that reminder. Love that is skin deep isn't love at all. I love you friend!