None of us look like this. Thought some of us once did, or wished we did. Our group brings to mind that passage from The Velveteen Rabbit. You know the one about becoming Real:
“It’s a thing that happens to you…It doesn’t happen all at once. You become. It takes a long time…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 those who don’t understand.”
We gather a few mornings a week – in the warm pool at the downtown Y, and go through an hour of water aerobics, easier on the joints. We greet each other affectionately, gathering in newcomers who may at first feel awkward, protecting themselves, shy in their bathing suits without the camouflage of Spanx and loose-fitting tunics and leggings. We’ve all been there, that first visit, and remember. We welcome the new while remembering those who are no longer with us.
Now, unlike the Velveteen Rabbit, most of us still have our hair, though some not – chemotherapy. Our eyes haven’t dropped off, and our joints are tight, or replaced and, most times, achy. We know one another by first names only. Few of us socialize on dry land. But we are here. We are here for one another. We have been here through chemo rounds, through mourning, through recovery. We’ve been here to celebrate milestones and victories, great and small, all while semi-submerged in our chlorine-laced pool. We are here- without makeup, without artifice.
So here’s to us, who show ourselves as Real, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to those who don’t understand.