Tag Archives: Aging

The Velveteen Rabbit… On Getting Older and Becoming Real

I find I am growing old and hope more than anything that I have made a difference in the lives of those with whom I have lived and loved.

I had a professor once who said, “When you choose to invest your life in others, it will screw up your life… but, at least your life will be interesting.”

I believe my life has been interesting.

Here is an excerpt from The Velveteen Rabbit (by Margery Williams), a wonderful children’s book about becoming real (long before Toy Story 1, 2, or 3).  I like to think that as I’m getting older, I’m becoming real:

HERE was once a velveteen rabbit, and in the beginning he was really splendid. He was fat and bunchy, as a rabbit should be; his coat was spotted brown and white, he had real thread whiskers, and his ears were lined with pink sateen. On Christmas morning, when he sat wedged in the top of the Boy’s stocking, with a sprig of holly between his paws, the effect was charming.

There were other things in the stocking, nuts and oranges and a toy engine, and chocolate almonds and a clockwork mouse, but the Rabbit was quite the best of all. For at least two hours the Boy loved him, and then Aunts and Uncles came to dinner, and there was a great rustling of tissue paper and unwrapping of parcels, and in the excitement of looking at all the new presents the Velveteen Rabbit was forgotten.

For a long time he lived in the toy cupboard or on the nursery floor, and no one thought very much about him. He was naturally shy, and being only made of velveteen, some of the more expensive toys quite snubbed him. The mechanical toys were very superior, and looked down upon every one else; they were full of modern ideas, and pretended they were real. The model boat, who had lived through two seasons and lost most of his paint, caught the tone from them and never missed an opportunity of referring to his rigging in technical terms. The Rabbit could not claim to be a model of anything, for he didn’t know that real rabbits existed; he thought they were all stuffed with sawdust like himself, and he understood that sawdust was quite out-of-date and should never be mentioned in modern circles. Even Timothy, the jointed wooden lion, who was made by the disabled soldiers, and should have had broader views, put on airs and pretended he was connected with Government. Between them all the poor little Rabbit was made to feel himself very insignificant and commonplace, and the only person who was kind to him at all was the Skin Horse.

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, 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 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 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.”

The Rabbit sighed. He thought it would be a long time before this magic called Real happened to him. He longed to become Real, to know what it felt like; and yet the idea of growing shabby and losing his eyes and whiskers was rather sad. He wished that he could become it without these uncomfortable things happening to him…

For full text and illustrations go here to Digital Library


This Year’s Freshman Mindset – I find I’m Old

Nearly two million students are entering college this year, many beginning this month.  In recognition of the unique experiences students bring with them, Beloit College (in Beloit, Wisconson) compiles a list about these new freshmen each year (this is their eleventh).  Kudos to Tom McBride (Professor of Humanities) and Ron Nief (Public Affairs Director) for their work each year.

Members of the class of 2012 was generally born in 1990; will be about 18 years old; and (to them) Sammy Davis, Jr., Jim Henson, Ryan White, Stevie Ray Vaughn, and Freddie Krueger have always been dead.

Here are some exerpts about the class of 2012:

  • They have always been looking for Carmen Sandiego.
  • Coke and Pepsi have always used recycled plastic bottles.
  • Shampoo and conditioner have always been available in the same bottle.
  • Electronic filing of tax returns has always been an option.
  • Universal Studios has always offered an alternative to Mickey in Orlando, Florida.
  • WWW has never stood for World Wide Wrestling.
  • Films have never been X rated, only NC-17.
  • Clarence Thomas has always sat on the Supreme Court.
  • IBM has never made typewriters.
  • McDonald’s and Burger King have always used vegetable oil for cooking french fries.
  • The Tonight Show has always been hosted by Jay Leno and started at 11:35 EST.
  • Lenin’s name has never been on a major city in Russia.
  • Caller ID has always been available on phones.
  • Soft drink refills have always been free.
  • 98.6 F or otherwise has always been confirmed in the ear.
  • Radio stations have never been required to present both sides of public issues.

Here is my (unfortunate) reaction to each of these I have chosen (I actually met Sammy Davis, Jr. and well remember the others as living, breathing souls):

  • Carmen Sandiego and I become acquainted through the computer game while I was teaching seventh graders.
  • Coke out of a glass bottle – the real thing!
  • As Steven Wright says, “Boycott shampoo – demand the real thing!”
  • This one surprised me (electronic returns) – I didn’t think it had been available that long.
  • I remember when Disneyworld was built in Florida.  They were secretly buying up land as the Yensid company (or some such name).
  • I remember WWW, and GLOW (Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling), and even Big Time Wrestling (Man Mountain Mike was my favorite).
  • “You have an NC-17 mind” just doesn’t have the same ring as “X rated.”
  • The whole Clarence Thomas debacle during his confirmation hearings almost made me stop drinking Coke (at least from a can).
  • I learned to type on a manual typewriter (Royal, if I remember right).
  • The fries at McDonald’s haven’t been the same without their famous grease.
  • I still miss Johnny Carson (you really have to watch this link – a minute and a half ovation for one of the all-time greats) – he was so good and so funny.  And, just to start an argument – David Letterman always was, is, and always will be funnier than Jay Leno.
  • I had maps in my classroom that still had the Soviet Union on them as we approached Y2K.
  • I grew up with a party line and a rotary phone – Caller ID was unheard of.
  • Refills may be free, but you pay as much today for a small drink as you would for a two liter bottle.
  • I remember the thermometer under my tongue.  My parents remember it being inserted into a different orifice.
  • This makes me think of Point-Counterpoint with Dan and Jane on SNL.

So… I’m old.  Way old.  Almost 50 (that’s like 100 in teen years).

I'd like to teach the world to sing...

I'd like to teach the world to sing...