In the realm of the Real
As a child, I believed that my inability to love enough prevented my toys from becoming real. I was not an unimaginative child (I believed I could fly, for instance) but in the case of The Velveteen Rabbit, I held fast to a highly literalist reading of the story. It was the use of the capital letter, I think, and William Nicholson’s lovely, melancholic illustrations.
“When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real."
The story of the velveteen rabbit broke my heart, and I’ve had a painfully ambivalent relationship to soft toys ever since.
I can’t bear to see toys damaged or discarded. Whenever I see a toy lashed to a truck’s grill or bumper, I feel pain so disproportionate and irrational that it nauseates me. I’ve asked others why they think a trucker might feel compelled to strap a discarded toy to his bumper, only to find that the person’s never noticed such a thing. So I was glad to read this article, and intrigued by the idea of an artist-in-residence at the NYC Department of Sanitation (where does one apply?) and by the idea that at least one trucker thinks it’s a great way to get noticed by chicks.
Despite all this, I plan to make this wonderful rabbit soon. In fact, as soon as Jess Hutch’s booklet arrives, I plan to make eleven of her toys before Christmas, starting with a robot. If you are a child under ten and you know me, leave a comment and tell me what colour robot you’d like best.