There was once a little girl who did not like to sleep. She hated closing her eyes on the world, missing all the exciting colors and activities, the games to be played, the books to be read. She did not like to sleep.
But, this little girl did love to dream. She loved the worlds that blossomed from her imagination, given space and life. She loved the adventures that her dreams left her with to exclaim about to her mother. So her mother told her that her dreams required sleep.
“If you don’t sleep, my love, you cannot dream. Then you’re dreams get lonely. They need you, you see. Without you, there is no one to give them life, no on to help them be alive. If you don’t sleep and visit them and have your adventures with them, your dreams will grow weak and, eventually, they will disappear altogether.”
The girl did not believe her mother and staunchly refused to nap, would put off bedtime for longer and longer until she finally collapsed from exhaustion into a sleep so weary that she did not dream. This was the habit for more than a week.
Finally, one night, Mother placed the little girl in her bed and told her, in no uncertain terms, that she would be in a great deal of trouble if she left her bed. “I will hear you if you do,” Mother warned, and the little girl knew this to be true. Her mother’s hearing was unparalleled by anything in her world.
So there she sat in bed, her eyes opened as wide as saucers, refusing to give in to sleep. But the room was dark and shadowed softly by the glow of her nightlight, her nightgown was fresh and smelled of lavender, and her little bed so comfy and soft with her favorite blanket. She cuddled down onto her pillow, holding Vela, her velveteen rabbit, on her tummy. She would talk to Vela, that’s what she would do. But what about?
As the little girl thought about topics for conversation, her eyes began to grow heavy and a little yawn escaped her and then an even bigger one. Before the little miss knew it, she had fallen asleep in her little bed.
And, tonight, she dreamed; but it was not like her other dreams.
This place was different. It was bare and broken, dry like a desert and empty of life. The sand made sounds like broken things as she walked on it.
“Where am I?” she asked, hoping to sound brave despite the tremor in her voice.
A little head poked out from behind a ruined tree next to a dry spring. “You. You left us behind,” it says, scooting out into the light. The deer was small, its coat matted and its brown eyes sad. “You abandoned us.”
“No, I didn’t. I’m here!” the little girl insisted.
“You haven’t been. We grew lonely and didn’t know what to do. The world grew dark and dry and scary. My friends disappeared. You didn’t dream, didn’t play with us or visit us. You left us.” The little deer’s ears drooped and it stretched its nose towards the ground that was devoid of green, and, for the first time, she could see how gaunt and skinny the poor thing was.
Beset by grief and sadness, the little girl threw her arms around the deer’s neck and hugged it, tears filling her big brown eyes. “I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to hurt you!” she cried, hot tears coursing down her cheeks and splattering onto the deer’s coat. “I’m sorry! I’ll be good!”
Suddenly, the deer disappeared from her arms and the world melted away. The little girl found herself in her room, in her own little bed, though the tears on her cheeks were real.
“Sweetheart…” came her Mommy’s voice above her, her warm hand on the girl’s face, “Sweetheart, wake up, you’re having a bad dream.”
The little girl threw herself, sobbing, into her Mommy’s arms and, on her shoulder, poured out the story of the last few minutes.
Mommy just hugged her baby girl and comforted her, cooing, “Oh, darling, it’s OK. It’s OK.”
“I’ll be good, Mommy. I’ll go to sleep. I don’t want to hurt my dreams.”
“Oh, my precious, you won’t hurt them. They will get better and be hale and whole and everything will be fine. I promise,” Mommy said softly, reaching out for the velveteen rabbit. “Here. Hug up Vela and close your eyes and think about your happiest dream. Everything will be fine, you’ll see.”
Scared though she was, the little girl crushed her velveteen rabbit to her and nodded quietly that she’d do what her Mommy wanted. Lying back, she took a deep breath as Mommy pulled her blanket up to her chin and tucked her in with a kiss.
Mommy then leaned over to the nightlight on the table next to the bed, cupping her hand next to her mouth, and whispered softly, “Little light with your golden glow, protect my girl where’ere she’ll go. Give her dreams that are soft and sweet and may she smile when next we meet.”
Amazingly, the little girl felt lots better and her sighs turned into even breathing as Mommy’s weight sat on the bed next to her until she drifted off.
And you know what? Mommy was right.