No, I cannot hide emotion well. I am a poet, for Pete’s Sake. I feel everything deeply, I express what I feel in words or with tears, or with a face that says it all. I am easily read by those around me.
My little Bean is old enough to want to read The Chronicles of Narnia out loud with me, and I am beside myself with joy. I grew up in a Narnia-loving family. When my husband-to-be met my parents for the first time, we sat at a coffee shop so they could get to know him, and one of the first questions they asked him was, “So, what are your thoughts on Narnia?” Then literally, they both had their elbows resting on the table, their chins resting on their knuckles, leaning forward, gazing into his eyes to hear his breathless answer.
Well, that was when they realized that I was marrying an opposite for real and true. Scott is not a reader, he likes to work with his hands. He builds things, he does things, he tinkers and takes apart and puts back together again. I read.
When I was little, my parents always had lots of people in our home. They worked with students and military folks. We had up to 20 people for dinner on a regular basis. There was lively conversation, often about politics or philosophy, religion and the deep questions. After dinner, my dad would tell everyone present that he was going to read to us kids for a little bit. He would say that they were welcome to stay and read with us, or they could go in the other room and have coffee and dessert and he would be with them shortly. For some reason, no one ever left the table. They would just stay and figure it wouldn’t take long to get through a kids’ story and then they could get back to theorizing and debating.
Especially if it was an incredibly deep and philosophical crowd, he would pull out a Narnia book and start reading. After each cliff-hanging chapter end, it would be the adults saying, “Oh, please one more chapter! Oh, please one more chapter!” One by one, my three sisters and I would fall asleep at the table, and mom would cart us off to bed. People might chip in and help clear the table, but there were also nights when after four hours of reading, the dishes would still be on the table, and all the adults would be fired up to keep reading until they finished the book.
We realized early that these books are not just for children. When we were all still living at home, every so often, we would spread the word that it was Narnia night at the Arensmeiers (my maiden name). People would come over dressed in comfy clothes, because we all knew we were going to sit in front of the fire, reading, until the wee hours of the morning when we finished the story.
I have read all seven books over and over again throughout my life. I always seem to find something new. There are parts that make me cry no matter how many times I’ve read them. I’ve read them to every roommate I’ve ever had. Somehow, my husband has evaded the Narnia experience, until now! Now, both my 4-year old and my 8-year old are clamoring for more and more Narnia. Bean said last night that Narnia is his favorite book in the whole world. Boy after my own heart, I tell you.
The thing is, Narnia is allegorical, and heavily symbolic. There are allusions to God and a relationship with him throughout. I have come and gone in my appreciation of religion in my day, but I have never once lost my love for Aslan. (I have not really ever lost my love for the God of my understanding – just for anything at all to do with organized religion.)
The stories of Narnia were my introduction into the idea of things mystic and powerful, magical, wise, beautiful and sometimes terrible. Everything I know of sacred and holy, everything I know of the idea of reverence comes from Narnia. This is what I know, and feel. This is the language that speaks to me, that comforts my heart when the world around me makes no sense. Narnia is more real to me than half of what I know to be true. Part of me, perhaps, has never really grown up at all. And now my children are entering into this door in the wardrobe with me. Life may never be quite the same.