“Mommy? May I snuggle down in your bed until I fall asleep? I don’t know why, but your bed just feels safer to me.” She looked up at me expectantly, and it was one of those moments where I knew I just couldn’t say no. She’s been more clingy since school started, and sometimes she just needs to feel safe.
I helped her get all tucked into our bed, turned on a nightlight, and bent down to pray with her and kiss her goodnight.
Then she held out her Digger Dog to me so I could kiss him, too.
That Digger Dog has quite a history.
See, when I was a girl, I had one just like it. For Audrey’s second birthday, my brother scoured eBay and found one exactly like mine, and gave it to her. She hasn’t slept without him since (except for that one night this summer when she left him at home while we were camping, and I held her while she cried herself almost to sleep).
She propped herself up on an elbow and looked across my bedroom, “May I sleep with your Digger Dog tonight, too?” she asked, “And your other animals?”
I walked over to the window and claimed my three stuffed animals sitting next to it: Digger, Bosley and Aslan. (Each of them have their story, and perhaps I’ll share more about that in another post.)
I gave her the animals and she held my Digger up. “Wow, he’s pretty beat up.” she said.
I pulled the covers back and climbed in next to her, “Yep. He’s had his ears torn and spots sewn back together and new stuffing inside. Grandma helped me take care of him when I was a little girl.”
She examined each of those spots running her fingers over stitches, and I marveled at the length of those fingers, their gentle touch, the nails grown just a little over the tip and filed in a feminine arch. She touched the space where his nose should have been and rubbed his eyes.
Holding the two Diggers up together, she made them dance in the air, and I told her stories of my life with my Digger. She nuzzled down deep into my bed as I told her how Digger had gone everywhere with me. He slept in my bed, he went on sleepovers, he traveled, he danced on the dashboard of our cars, he learned how to nod politely during classical music rather than dance Snoopy style, he waved at cars that drove by us on the road, he wrote (along with many other stuffed animals) the Dogtown Gazette (edited by my brother and me in our basement). He was my buddy, one of my closest friends.
When I finished, we snuggled for a bit and she held both Diggers tightly.
Then she lifted my Digger up to me.
“Mommy,” she whispered, her voice full of a reverent awe, “You made him real.”
I smiled and stroked a curl that was framing her face.
“See,” she held him to me, “Look in his eyes. Look deep. He’s real alright. I can see it in him.”
She dropped her head onto my shoulder, “He’s real because you loved him so much, and he can’t become unreal again.” Looking down she picked up her Digger, “And Mommy, there is still so much ahead for us, and one day my Digger will be real, too, because I’m going love him just like you.”
Oh, my dear, dear girl… I’ve looked, and I can see it in his eyes.
Your Digger is already real, too.
“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