Over the past few years, I have read to my daughter the story of the Velveteen Rabbit at bedtime, the last time, I think, for the first time, all the way through. As her stories go, this one, about a stuffed rabbit boy hoping to become and becoming Real, is rather long. Reading it all the way through gave it an increased poignancy. If you will, it was more real. To our daughter, it is Dolly (below) who is as Real to her as the Rabbit is to the boy.
Toys, on their way to becoming Real, often get broken and/or worn by repeated loving by the children that love them. Somewhere in the middle of the story, my daughter was crying, for she did not want her special doll friends to be worn out, faded, ripped, or unstitched. While I’m not sure she fully understood, we discussed how true to life the story was. In another part of the story, different toy types form cliques and thumb their noses at those not like them, claiming their own superiority.
Even the simplest of stories have messages and morals to explain the intricacies and ways of life. When I read Joseph Campbell’s The Power of Myth in the 80s and subsequently watched Bill Moyers interview him in a PBS series, I had no idea I would see the power of storytelling as a explainer of things not yet understood on a personal level.
Reading stories takes on a whole new meaning when you realize they help to explain life’s complexities and prepare our children for what lies ahead for them. Hoping to prepare my daughter well, I could read all night long. While the Velveteen Rabbit sits on a shelf collecting dust and being neglected today- a phenomena told in the story, I have no doubt we will one day soon rediscover him, taking comfort in the explanations of life provided.