Those of you who know me, know I like eclectic things. I've started collecting books about well loved toys. We recently found my teddy bear, “Teddy”, and I had him cleaned. Yes, he's lost his eyes and has some of his hair rubbed off, but he's had stories told to him I didn't dare tell my parents when I was little. I also have a favorite record player, but that one's hard to take to bed.
In the book Code Name Johnny Walker, the interpreter talks about coming to live in San Diego after living in war-torn Iraq. On his first day here he walked with his children to a McDonald's and had fast food, using American money. He went to flea markets and garage sales because he was fascinated by what Americans discarded. I'm sure you've been to garage and estate sales, where the objects tell the story of a person, a family. In the same way, old toys tell us of childhoods past.
Every year I share this story because it so simply captures that conversation between wise old toys and new toys, if toys could talk. I loved hearing it as a child. I love it still.
So, enjoy this excerpted passage from The Velveteen Rabbit, by Margery Williams.
For a long time he lived in the toy cupboard or on the nursery floor, and no one thought very much about him. He was naturally shy, and being only made of velveteen, some of the more expensive toys quite snubbed him. The mechanical toys were very superior, and looked down upon every one else; they were full of modern ideas, and pretended they were real. The model boat, who had lived through two seasons and lost most of his paint, caught the tone from them and never missed an opportunity of referring to his rigging in technical terms. The Rabbit could not claim to be a model of anything, for he didn't know that real rabbits existed; he thought they were all stuffed with sawdust like himself, and he understood that sawdust was quite out-of-date and should never be mentioned in modern circles. Even Timothy, the jointed wooden lion, who was made by the disabled soldiers, and should have had broader views, put on airs and pretended he was connected with Government. Between them all the poor little Rabbit was made to feel himself very insignificant and commonplace, and the only person who was kind to him at all was the Skin Horse.
The Skin Horse had lived longer in the nursery than any of the others. He was so old that his brown coat was bald in patches and showed the seams underneath, and most of the hairs in his tail had been pulled out to string bead necklaces. He was wise, for he had seen a long succession of mechanical toys arrive to boast and swagger, and by-and-by break their mainsprings and pass away, and he knew that they were only toys, and would never turn into anything else. For nursery magic is very strange and wonderful, and only those playthings that are old and wise and experienced like the Skin Horse understand all about it.
“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.”
“I suppose you are real?” said the Rabbit. And then he wished he had not said it, for he thought the Skin Horse might be sensitive. But the Skin Horse only smiled.
“The Boy's Uncle made me Real,” he said. “That was a great many years ago; but once you are Real you can't become unreal again. It lasts for always.”
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.
Full text read here: https://youtu.be/QR6AEdsmNQQ
Merry Christmas, everyone!
Got into the Christmas spirit this year in a big way, and still I'm running around catching up. Still finishing the final draft of a book I started some years ago, a paranormal, and it's taken me some time to get my head wrapped around the hero again. But boy, once he got me. He got me.
We opted for a huge tree this year: 13 feet. It has a nearly 10″ base, so it had to be carved up at the bottom to fit in the largest tree holder they make (the one without cables and having to screw into the base of the tree). Took a home visit and custom cut at the base after we got the thing home, and 2 strong men to get it into my living room. But boy, what a treat!
Over the 45+ years I've made a home here, I've collected ornaments and I finally got a tree that could hold nearly all of them. I said nearly. Yes, you are not reading this wrong. I will still have an overflow. After years of saving broken ornaments (arms and legs of elves and cowboys and supernatural beings, fruits and noses and flowers off favorite ornaments), I finally threw out the “bone yard” and it nearly broke my heart.
But I have too much in my basket of Christmas, and I'm a bit on an emotional overload. The grandkids came over last night and we decorated the little trees I have always done to absorb the cute small ornaments my mom had. Her sad little tree didn't survive the multiple moves my father did after her passing.
Christmas is a hopeful time. We're reviewing what happened this year and celebrating the wins, remembering the happy events and mourning some of the losses. I will never forget what it feels like to be a child on Christmas morning, which is something I share with many of you.
I am grateful for the blessings of family, readers, the business I've built and the stories I've told. I hope to get better and better with my writing. I'm always seeking to be relevant. Reviews are up and down and with them come my emotions. But that's life. It comes with the territory. I found my childhood teddy bear had survived our house fire and was brought in along with some other things from our storage containers. I had Teddy cleaned and looking like new. He has no eyes left, but I think he sees plenty!
I regret little except saying I love you more to the kids, to my parents and grandparents. I regret the arguments I've had with some, the way I took offense when I should have walked away. I don't regret being generous with my heart or with my love. It always comes back ten fold.
I pray I won't leave the tree up until Easter like we did one year. I marvel that I actually got so busy with my Real Estate business that I let that happen. I think the rest of the family somehow thought it was my responsibility to get it down, and eventually I did, after my 10-year old told me he couldn't invite any of his friends over anymore because it was so weird to see that dead drooping tree in our living room.
I hope my children will soften their opinion and remembrance of me, like the fuzzy pictures the “Glamour Shots” do that smooth out all the wrinkles in our skin and make our eyes and hair glow like diamonds. I'd like to be remembered as larger than life, a family legend that brings forth lots of tall tales and exaggerations of the fantastique! We've made a tradition of that, like most of you do as well, telling the crazy stories of us, and how we all survived the craziness, the wonder and beauty of just being alive.
I hope you experience everything you wish for and everything you really need. I hope you live long and well, love hard and forgive more than you love. I hope that all the miracles of the season, and the good fortune available to you will fall like sugar crystals all around you.
And that you live in the magic of love and what love can bring for the rest of your life. I plan to do all I can to enhance that experience with my stories, if you'll take the time to read them.
In February, I attended a writer's conference in Hawaii, organized by the wonderful author, Violet Duke. It was my honor to sponsor a tour of the Arizona Memorial. I've been before, but wanted to make it so others who hadn't, got to experience it. December 7th is just three days from now.
Words do not do this beautiful memorial justice. I watched the peaceful waters of the bay, the oil still leaking from the Arizona herself, flowing out to sea, mixed with my flower lei I brought to honor those who served for me so bravely and paid the ultimate sacrifice. I really don't get into the full holiday spirit until after this milestone is passed. Just like I don't ever get to Thanksgiving without remembering 9-11 or the assasination of JFK. These are just points in my life I celebrate. And yes, I say celebrate.
The ones who are gone would want me to do so. I can't bring them back, but I can make sure they live on forever. We came together during these huge times in our country's history. All creeds and races, religions. Everyone knew where they were during that time, or remembered going back to visit the memorials if they were too young to remember the live event. We think about those gone, and vow they will not be forgotten. It's our job, because right now, we are the living. Won't always be so but for right now, we are.
I was struck again by the photographs of the young pilot, Setuo Ishino, who flew into the Missouri, and the military send-off he received, draped in a Japanese flag sewn by a crew of Navy kitchen swabs. The letter that was written to his parents, telling of his bravery. The men who saluted as he was returned to the sea. I see the other letters written by the other Kamakaze pilots to their parents before their missions, men who would be screwed into their cockpits for no escape. I saw the picture of his family when the boy was two, holding an airplane.
There is insanity in war. And there is decency and honor even in the worst of times. I am reminded of what someone said, “Circumstances don't make a person. They reveal a person.”
My little part of this is only to help people remember what bravery and true honor really is all about. The selfless courage of common men and women, who do uncommon things. Things they never dreamed they would or could do, but somehow they just do.
And I say thank you to all who have served and are serving today.