There’s a children’s classic that I used to love. The Velveteen Rabbit. I had an old copy of it with creased, yellowing pages. When you opened the cover, it creaked. In my 25 years of living, I’ve yet to find a sound as comforting at the creak of an opened book. The fanned pages gave off that musky smell that you can only find in libraries, old churches, and university corridors. (No coincidence that these are my favorite places.) I loved The Velveteen Rabbit.
There’s a passage in the book that I skimmed right over as a little girl. I didn’t understand, or perhaps, having lived so little, I couldn’t understand.
He said, “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.”
And then I realized that after all these years, I was finally becoming real, and how grateful I am for the privilege.
Becoming a mother is a process. Aside from the nine-months you spend carrying the little buggers, you have to figure out what to do with them once they’re here. I remember feeling Rosebud kick and imagining the perfect sunny afternoons when our perfect little family would sit on a perfect checkered picnic blanket in perfectly coordinated outfits to enjoy a perfect meal. And as we laughed and laughed and….WAKE THE HECK UP, SUNSHINE, YOU’RE KID HAS COLIC AND YOU’RE NOT GOING TO SLEEP FOR A FEW
WEEKS, MONTHS, YEARS AND YOU’RE GOING TO SMELL LIKE OLD BREASTMILK FOR THE 12 MONTHS, AND ONE DAY YOU’RE GOING TO GET SPIT UP IN YOUR MOUTH AND PROJECTILE VOMIT ALL OVER THE KITCHEN FLOOR.
Nobody told me these things. And even if they had, I doubt I would have listened.
But to me the hardest part about “becoming” wasn’t even the long nights, the colicky screams or the constant anxiety of not breaking your new kid. (Not that this was a walk-in-the-park, mind you.) The most difficult part was resolving who you once were and who you thought you would be with the reality staring back at you. Suddenly, the lines under the eyes are a little deeper, and the tummy isn’t
exactly anything at all like the one you had in college, and your child doesn’t spend her days cooing in pretty pink ruffles. The reality is that today you didn’t put any makeup on, your hair needs a good wash, and you may have been wearing the same outfit three days ago. The kid hasn’t cooed a day in her life and the pretty pink ruffles are hanging in the closet because ruffles and poop stains just don’t mix.
It’s all about expectations and learning that NOTHING is ever what you think it is going to be…but at the same time, that doesn’t mean it isn’t just as full of wonder.
Because finally…I am becoming. And my edges had to be worn down so I wasn’t too sharp. And I had to get stronger so I wouldn’t break if not handled gently. Instead of sitting on the shelf to stay safe, I got dirty, I got played with, I was loved. And by the time I’m finally Real, my hair will be loved off (or rubbed grey), my eyes might drop out, and things I didn’t even know I had will start to sag. “But these things don’t matter at all, because once you’re Real you can’t be ugly, except to those people that don’t understand.” And honestly, do those people that don’t understand even matter?
Because to my Rosebud and Doc, I’m as Real as it gets. Heck, I’m the Real slim shady, I’m so Real.
I used to aspire to be beautiful and strong and perfect.
Now I want to be broken and tired and loved to death. Because it means that I’m in the trenches and that I am living and that one day when I am old and senile, I will finally be REAL, and I hope, dear readers, that you will be, too.
Love and other drugs,
E. Hunter W.