Wednesday, January 6, 2010

regarding reality and becoming Real

(this blogpost has a soundtrack, of course, and an accompanying text, too. there's a link below to the former; the latter is no doubt on a shelf somewhere in your house. feel free to indulge in these accompaniments or not.)

you dream of colors that have never been made; you imagine songs that have never been played, says a line from a favorite nickel creek song, "this side." i've often hoped that describes something like what eliza experienced in her time here, never having seen the colors that have been made, never having been able to enjoy the songs that have been played. a dear friend who knew eliza well, both in a personal way and a medical way, once described her as living halfway here and halfway Beyond here. that even as she was conscious and really here, she was also not completely conscious and Real here.

after eliza died, another dear friend with similar knowledge of eliza gave luke a copy of the velveteen rabbit, by margery williams. i hadn't read the story in a long time, since i was a child probably. before i read it to luke, i read it myself and wept.

'What is REAL?' asked the Rabbit one day.
'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[...]It doesn't happen all at once,' said the Skin Horse. '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.'
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.

i like to imagine that eliza was undergoing the process of becoming Real--the process that, no doubt, we all have to go through--in a more transparent and quick way than the rest of us. even as we loved her well, she was clearly becoming shabby and worn out, even from day one. but she was loved well, "not just to play with, but REALLY," which i don't suggest affected her ability to become Real, but which i hope did affect her experience of the process: it hurt her sometimes, no doubt, but i hope now that she is Real she doesn't mind--or even remember--having been hurt.

one day you'll see her and you'll know what i mean. take her or leave her she will still be the same.[...] but nothing's the same, as you'll see when she's gone.

And while he was playing, two rabbits crept out from the bracken and peeped at him. One of them was brown all over, but the other had strange markings under his fur, as though long ago he had been spotted, and the spots still showed through. And about his little soft nose and his round black eyes was something familiar, so that the Boy thought to himself: 'Why, he looks just like my old Bunny that was lost when I had scarlet fever!'

and so i live in daily anticipation of seeing eliza with all her spots covered over and understanding, as she no doubt does, what Real really is.

it's foreign on this side.


Meredith said...

See, now, I am sitting in a hotel lobby crying. This is what your writing does to me.

Beautifully written. The Velveteen Rabbit may be the book that makes me cry the most. What a story.

Patricia Berman said...

WOW...nothing else, just WOW!