Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Theory of Relativity and Everything is Relative in Bedtime Reading

The used copy of The Hobbit that I ordered from Amazon.com has not yet arrived and my kids wanted me to read them something before bed as they had a rare night without basketball practice, an ice hockey game, or a compelling episode of American Idol. Rather than start a long book that would delay The Hobbit when it finally arrives, we read a short nonfiction book about Albert Einstein, not what I'd customarily choose for a prebedtime snuggle and read aloud, but it was surprisingly popular. Afterwards, the big kids went to read their own books in bed and I told six year old Ethan I would read one quick book from our shelves. He chose Margery Williams' The Velveteen Rabbit (sigh). I adore this book and realized that although I've read it dozens of times, I don't think I've ever read it to him. I asked why he selected it, and Ethan told me that his kindergarten class recently watched a film version and it was "great." He must have paid attention to the movie, because as I first mentioned the Skin Horse, Ethan said, "He is so wise." I couldn't agree more, and in, fact, as always happens to me, my eyes filled up and a lump formed in my throat as I read these words:

"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. (By the way, maybe one or two little tears had now escaped and rolled down my face.) "You become. It takes a long time. That's 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 people who don't understand."

So there I was, reading this in a trembling voice, and the back of my brain was thinking these words should be read at weddings and funerals and printed on Congratulations on Your New Baby cards, etc.., when Ethan stopped me, sagely nodding his head, to say, "The Skin Horse is so wise, not as wise as Yoda, but still very wise." Holy crap, I love that kid and the way his brain works so very differently from mine!


Teacherninja said...

That'll teach me not to read blog posts like this at school. *sniff*

JCHildebrandt said...

Christine I have to admit, I am so glad I am not the only one who cries over what she reads. Reading that passage from a book that is also a favorite of mine had the same effect on me as it did to you. Thankfully Ethan is in this world to set us straight! Thanks so much for your great posts - they always add a bit of laughter to my day!