About Being Real ….

The Velveteen Rabbit,  written by Margery Williams, was one of many treasures on my children’s bookshelf. I unearthed it recently in our storage room. First published in 1922, “it chronicles the story of a stuffed rabbit and his quest to become real through the love of his owner.”

I somehow managed to open it to the following passage when I thumbed through it’s pages. I read it over and over, recalling the words from years ago, but extracting a new, (50 something) meaning.It’s beautifully simple.

The Skin Horse had lived longer in the nursery than any of the others. He was so old that his brown coat was bald in patches and showed the seams underneath, and most of the hairs in his tail had been pulled out to string bead necklaces. 

He was wise, for he had seen a long succession of mechanical toys arrive to boast and swagger, and by-and-by break their mainsprings and pass away, and he knew that they were only toys, and would never turn into anything else. For nursery magic is very strange and wonderful, and only those playthings that are old and wise and experienced like the Skin Horse understand all about it.

“What is REAL?” asked the Rabbit one day. “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 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.”

“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 Skin Horse Tells His Story

“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.”

Perception and Reality

Sometimes, during the relentless struggle with an at-risk child, it’s not only what 
happens that is notable, but what doesn’t happen.

I wish I could tell you about the time that my son sunk the winning basket in a
championship game, was the crucifer on Easter Sunday at church, serenely sat in a duck blind with his father and grandfather – patiently waiting and eager to
learn, took his high school girlfriend to the Jr./Sr. or secured his first apartment and landed his dream job in a big city.

Every parent has preconceived notions about their children from the moment 
we start dreaming about a family.  
But, perception can sometimes be a far cry from reality.

It’s one thing to envision your child as a gifted athlete and their gift turns out to be the violin.

But parents of addiction know another level of unrealized expectations.
Watching a child with inherent potential being sucked into a vortex, 
right before their eyes.  
Maybe it’s trial and error with alcohol, then a variety of illegal substances and they’re off and running to a point of no return….

Addiction can rob us of their youth.

However, their past doesn’t necessarily predict their future.
(See – All’s Quiet (today) on The Southwestern Front – 4/26/13 )

Families of addiction must practice boundaries, make tough decisions, 
move forward – then, let go.

And … don’t spend too much time looking back.  You’re not going that way …

Bittersweet Transitions

I spent last week in South Carolina with my parents and my brother. 
The original foursome.
My father, brother and I have been facing the inevitable for close to a year, 
trying to figure out the right time, the perfect fit; and gathering the courage 
to set the wheels in motion.

My mother has vascular dementia.  
Her memory issues have become significant and her care was consuming 
my 80-year-old father.  
It might have been simpler, in some ways, for things at their home to remain
the same, but we had made the difficult decision to move her into memory care
in an upstate retirement community.

Now, it was showtime.

Driving South on 85, earlier that week, I could feel a low-grade current of 
anxiety running through my body.  The move date had been on the calendar 
for a month and I was determined to set aside other demands in my life for 
this short time and focus, solely, on my parents.  
Anticipating this looming reality, I reminded myself to stay in the present
moment and just breathe.
Don’t predict the outcome.
Leave space for not-knowing.

Too often, we decide how an event is going to play out before we even 
give it a chance to gradually unfold.  We like immediate answers.  We like 
predictable outcomes because they spare us from experiencing the 
uncomfortable feeling of not knowing.
Memory-care, I’d predicted, equals sadness.  Did I know this for sure ?  
Sad as this change might be, hopefully it would be a reprieve for my father, 
whose daily routine had become shaped by her constant supervision.  
For me and my brother, there was comfort in knowing our mother would 
be safe and supported and our father, who has more energy than we do, 
could take back a part of his active life.

We’d all come back together and taken our places in what Anne Morrow Lindbergh calls, the oyster bed, in her book, Gift From The Sea.  
I found a copy when I was gathering things to take to Mom’s new home.  
First published in 1955, it is still so relevant today.  
I wore my highlighter out as I reread it.  

The oyster bed is Lindbergh’s metaphor for a growing, ever-changing family.
“It is untidy, spread out in all directions, heavily encrusted with 
accumulations and, in its living state – firmly imbedded on its rock.”

And of a woman’s role in that oyster bed, she says this:
“Distraction is … inherent in a woman’s life … We must be open to all points
of the compass; husband, children, friends, community; stretched out,
exposed, sensitive like a spider’s web to each breeze that blows, to each 
call that comes.  How difficult for us, then, to achieve a balance in the
midst of those contradictory tensions, and yet how necessary for the proper functioning of our lives.  How to remain balanced, no matter what centrifugal
forces tend to pull one off center; how to remain strong, no matter what 
shocks come in the periphery and tend to crack the hub of the wheel.”

On the one week anniversary of this move, my mother appears to be
settling in to a new living state and demonstrating acceptance, grace 
and serenity – in her true fashion.