Join us all summer long for Last Read posts from a long list of talented writers, librarians and readers.
Guest Author Julie McMahon joins us from Australia, where she and her family relocated after they grew tired of feeling like passengers in their own life and chose to jump back into the driver’s seat, take hold of the steering wheel and point the car in a different direction. And while their new road can sometimes be bumpy, right now they’re enjoying the scenery.
Memory and meaning…
If I’m dying and have the chance to squeeze one Last Read in before I depart this earth, what would I choose?
As I considered the question, my thoughts naturally drifted toward the more common take on this query: what I would want as a Last Meal? I knew my answer in a heartbeat: my mother’s chicken noodle soup.
The taste of her soup brings back memories of childhood, of sitting in a warm kitchen and lapping up the tasty broth, cheeks still tinged with the icy pink of a winter wind. It was security and love poured into a bowl, with a generous helping of plenty, as there was always more if I was still hungry.
With my mother’s chicken soup in mind, I realized my book choice had to be similar in that it needed to trigger both memory and meaning. As her soup returns me to the kitchen of my childhood, a place of warmth and safety, so must my book.
And the winner goes to C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe from the Chronicles of Narnia.
In my first go around of the book, my nine-year-old self was enraptured with the story. A magical land of snow accessible through a mysterious wardrobe! Talking animals and evil witches, friendly beavers and landing a gig as a member of royalty! But more than anything, it was Aslan that brought me into the fold. An enormous, noble lion who was as magnanimous as he was fierce, I wanted an Aslan of my own.
It wasn’t until I was an adult that I returned to the story and realized the deeper meaning that C.S. Lewis had embedded into the tale. This was not only a children’s story of an enchanted land, it wove important moral truths of temptation and character into the fantasy (poor Edmund) as well as themes of redemption and forgiveness.
And while C.S. Lewis has said the Chronicles of Narnia are not to be read as Christian allegories, he did refer to them as “supposals”, or “inventions” that communicate important truths of the Christian faith. And as a Christian about to meet my maker, I would want a gentle reminder of my beliefs to escort me on my way.
If The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe satisfies my need for meaning, it provides a warm dose of memory as well. I read the whole series aloud to one of my sons who, despite reaching double digits, has continued to request that I read to him before bed. To rediscover Narnia with him was magical; I saw his imagination take him on the same journey I had first embarked upon so many years ago.
As we read together, I stole glances at the enthralled look on his face. It reminded me of how I had felt discovering the books for the first time. I could remember lying on my own bed at his age, my mind transporting me to a magical wintery wood where a little faun with a jaunty umbrella was waiting.
And if I close my eyes, I can even catch the scent of some chicken noodle soup wafting up from the kitchen.