“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.”
-From The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams
The Velveteen Rabbit was one of my all-time favorite books when I was a kid. As a devoted stuffed animal lover, I totally related to the message that love takes a toll on the beloved. Balding fur, eyeballs hanging on by a thread, and deflated stuffing are simply signs of how much something has meant to you.
As an adult, this passage from The Velveteen Rabbit still rings true. Now when I read these words I nod my head in agreement, wipe a tear from my eye, and think of…
My minivan has been puked on. And not in a contained way. Puke has found its way into the crevice between the seats that fold down for extra storage, and into the seatbelt buckle. There is that space where you insert the metal part of the seatbelt so that it makes that satisfying clicking sound. There has been puke in that thing.
My kids are older now, but my minivan had car seats strapped into it for so many years that there are lines in the seats that can never be erased. Those lines are like lines on a map, charting my kids’ journeys from babyhood to adolescence.
Before we moved back to our hometown of Austin, our van used to carry the five of us across the country twice a year so that we could visit family. During those epic drives our van was like a little house on wheels where we would watch movies, eat meals, sleep, yell at each other, change diapers, and where I would unsuccessfully try to nurse babies who were strapped into a car seat. Those of you who can do that are my heroes.
Now our minivan carries us back and forth to muddy soccer games, tennis lessons, basketball games, high school carpool, camping trips, garden workdays, and sweaty workouts. On a good day our dog gets to come along for the ride.
Feed a wet dog a bunch of chocolate ice cream, then when he pukes it up, bake everything in the 108-degree Texas heat and you get the idea of what our minivan smells like. I try to do something about the smell sometimes. I stuck an almost-used-up volcano candle in the floor storage compartment to try to trick people into thinking our minivan was actually Anthropologie.
There are layers of smells in there is what I am trying to say. And maybe I’m also complain bragging a little about my floor storage compartment. Sorry. But it is pretty cool.
We have shared countless meals in the van, dropped sippy cups of milk that rolled under the seat to be found six months later. There are lights that come unhinged when I open the back, dangling there like dead bodies.
Recently we considered trading in our van for something a little snazzier. I couldn’t bear the thought of buying yet another minivan as I have been driving a van for 10 years now. I didn’t want to drive a huge SUV because I think it would just make me feel like I was in a drug cartel or the secret service. Also because the environment. When you have three kids who like to go places with their friends, that pretty much requires that you need either a minivan or a giant SUV or one of those shuttles you take to the remote parking lot in the airport.
Thinking about trading in my car for a new, shinier thing sounded like a dream come true at first, but ultimately I decided that, while others might not get it, I love my minivan. It will be paid off soon. All those memories and smells, I’ll be driving those around for free.
We can take that money we save on a car payment and put it toward college, which is coming in less than four years. I have a feeling the closer college gets, the less I will mind my stinky, well-worn ride, which is becoming less minivan and more time-capsule as the years pile up.
Maybe there’s still a sippy cup trapped somewhere in that thing. If I’m lucky.