“What is REAL?”

Stuffed animals are funny things.
Recently I was testing out some camera tricks and decided to use Pooh, my beloved and most favorite stuffed animal, as model. This was no big deal until I was looking through the resulting photos and it occurred to me that I had never bothered to take a single photo of Pooh before. Never.  
How can this be?
This is absurd. I’m the kind of person who takes photos of strangers on the subway. Photos of dinner rolls at fancy restaurants. Photos of babies crying bloody murder from the toxic fumes emitting from their diapers…. How, oh how, is it I never took a picture of someone as important as Pooh—the one who has spent more hours at my side than any living creature? 
He hasn’t slept in my bed in years, and yet, if I recall the very best and the very worst moments of my life I recall Pooh being within eye shot or an arm’s reach every time. He has seen everything and knows things about me that I would never ever admit to a living person. And perhaps that why I went all these years without a photo – because he is not a person. He is a thing. He is not real
Or is he?
Pooh was hand sewn by a family friend as a gift to my mother at her baby shower, along with all the other characters from the 100 Acre Wood. She said she ran out of stuffing after finishing Piglett and resorted to stuffing the rest with the cushion of an old chair, which you can see through the fabric of Pooh’s right abdomen.
From Margery WilliamsThe Velveteen Rabbit, 1922
“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.”

Comments

  1. says

    I love that story so much. I always think of it when I see Ginny clutching her “Big Lamb.”. She insists that he isn’t real and tells me regularly, “He’s just a toy, Mom,” but I know better. If he isn’t real yet, he will be one day.

    I saw a video somewhere of the original Pooh and his 100 Acre Wood pals on display and I cried. That Pooh, like yours, was utterly and undeniably REAL.

  2. Schastaine says

    Fantastic! I totally get it. My daughter does too. A few weeks ago I went to visit her at college and when I got into her dorm room, there on her bed was ‘pink baby’–the softest little lump of faded, fabric-worn-thin-to-the-stuffing, unidentifiable-as-anything, loved . . . very real, friend and comforter.

  3. Dawn @ The Feathered Nest says

    Oh hon. Your pooh is HEAVEN! He speaks of love and security…consistency and all-that-matters….I love his tattered loveliness ~ xxoo, Dawn

  4. tracylee says

    I had a friend who had that bit read at her wedding :)
    Once you get it, I mean Really Get It, and it Sinks In, it’s so lovely that it’s heartbreaking

  5. nutbirds says

    Oh, poor Pooh. He needs back surgery. I would do what they do in the great houses in England. A lot of the old silk curtains are held together with nylon net. Pooh needs a gently hand stitched patch on his back so that his skin doesn’t leak all over the place. If you can stand it, a slight incision to refluff him might be good. Eventually all the filling turns to dust. My daughter always thought the song was “We need a Pooh” instead of Winnie the Pooh. If you show attention to Pooh, Lola might get jealous. Maybe Pooh should live in the bread box, so Lola can’t tease him.

  6. nutbirds says

    I was so concerned about Pooh’s condition that I forgot to say that whatever You Think is Real, is Real. I never liked Pooh as a kid, I guess it didn’t have enough action for me. But,…many of my favorite sayings are from those books. I guess you have to read them on many levels. What is Pooh’s future? Inquiring minds Need to Know.

  7. says

    Excellent post. T is just starting to get into really playing with dolls and stuffed animals. She doesn’t yet have one specific favorite, but I just know that there will be one someday. (for me it was a white stuffed bear that came to me one Christmas inside a giant balloon filled with confetti)

  8. Hushgirl says

    What a touching post. Your Pooh bear is beautiful, you can see soooo much love in him. Thanks for sharing this with us.

  9. blondie blu says

    OMGosh, Peaches, Pooh is fabulous! What a treasure he is. I’m glad you took picture of him now and share him with us. It is obvious how much he’s been loved and it is very touching. XO Helena

  10. Eva says

    Ive had my bear for 25 years, he has been put up for a while. Like you he has seen the good the bad and the ugly part of me. My little girl Lola found him and they are inseparable. Im a little jealous but he deserves to be loved again…now im on my way to her bed to take a pic of him.

  11. PeachesFreund says

    Wow, you are brave! I don’t think I could share Pooh with anyone. It puts me on edge to see anyone even touch him (I am the possessive type). But I’m glad your bear is getting his day in the sun again –good for him!

  12. PeachesFreund says

    Lola is funny with Pooh. Despite being washed (but not recently) Lola likes to bury her head in him and smell him like a bloodhound. It’s sort of like Murder She Wrote and she is picking apart his back story. One time I caught her making biscuits (gently/rhythmically punching) on his tummy. Pooh did not mind. What a trooper, that Pooh.

  13. PeachesFreund says

    That’s a nifty idea –reading it at a wedding. Sounds morbid, but I suppose it would also make a great reading for a funeral too. That Velveteen Rabbit is good for all occasions!

  14. PeachesFreund says

    Pooh is going to stay on the shelf in my room where I can see him every night. At some point, I may get up the guts to restore him (and the others in the set–who currently reside in the basement) but I’m not there yet. Part of me doesn’t want to see him gutted and/or changed in any way, part of me doesn’t want to admit I am a grown woman worrying about a stuffed animal (It’s a slippery slope to staying up to 3am to buy Victorian Dolls on QVC. I’m not ready yet!)

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