There is a book which sends me backwards. A book that makes me sad I’ve lost my innocence. A book which in its very construction shuts adults out. A story I have already told and read to my children because it is the one childhood memory I want them to share. A book which was the gateway drug to the Folk of the Faraway Tree, King Arthur, Robin Hood, Tolkien, Harry Potter and Game of Thrones.
It conjures up memories of playing with sticks. Running wild with my cousins in the bush at the end of my Nan’s street. Building beaver’s dams in the creek. The sun glinting through the trees as we planned adventures that only happened when you believe in magic. Believed so hard that I swear I saw dryads in that forest. A faun. There definitely was a lamp post. No need to fight over who was a sidekick because all kids were Kings and Queens. With a gang of five, one was always the Lion.
There is a story where there are clear goodies and baddies. It’s simple. Being good means being kind, brave and truthful. Loving your family. A story that told me there is a chocolate so good it’s worth betraying your family for. It’s still my favourite. I am always surprised Turkish Delight is often the last left in the box, noses turned up like it’s some Witch’s brew.
There is a book that still has me knocking on the back of cupboards with half a hope of a portal. The story that made me cry when I watched my mother’s silky oak Wardrobe drive away on the back of a ute when organising my Dad’s estate. I have tears right now as I type.
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, by CS Lewis is an important part of my childhood. Everywhere we went, my mother pointed out Narnia’s. The bush at the back of my Nan’s house, the root addled laneway lined with pines and blanketed with pine needles at the end of our street. This was her way of saying, “This is a place for kids to have adventures. Have them.” Today I look at the forest at the end of my street and think about when I’m going to allow my daughters to run wild in it. We’ve bought a dog to keep them safe in planning for it. Narnia is the reason I have wildly planted out my back yard with trees. I want my children to have a place in this world-soaked-with-fear to be children of the 70s.
The Chronicles of Narnia were the standard family wedding present from my Dad. As my cousins all tied the knot, the familiar box set sat on the gift table and we all smiled knowing what the wrapping paper hid. I have mine. The stories were so important to my father, even more so after Mum died. He was a Christian and for all intents and purposes we could have argued that he was ensuring the religious message in the Chronicles was in every household he loved. He probably thought as much. But I think it’s more pagan than that. I think Dad was just as keen to conjure up the exploits of his childhood, channel the voice of my mother pointing out another Narnia, divine children that played adventure stories rather than yelled at him and betrayed him for the delights of adulthood.
Realising there is something else going on in that series is like growing up. It’s a little bit of a betrayal. A shift. Adults were trying to TEACH me something by reading it to me? How dare they! I won’t be reading the other books to my children. I’ve always been uncomfortable with them. They are in my bookcase next to Harry Potter. When my girls can read they can choose them as easily as any other. I’m going to let The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe sit solo, un-adulted and carefree; full of adventures for as long as could be.
This is the first book in my blog series on the books which have made me who I am.