I was seven years old 50 years ago today when something traumatic happened. I’ve never forgotten the feeling in the pit of my stomach when my parents, after conferring with each other, decided that it was appropriate to tell me some really sad news.
As I’ve mentioned before, I was extraordinarily sensitive as a child. I believed in everything. Remember how I hid out in the kindergarten bathroom because I was afraid of the giant in the story the teacher was reading? Well, by age 6 or 7, when my parents read the Narnia books to me, I believed in Aslan and Narnia. For some reason, if it was in my head, it was real, and that was that. I knew all about Aslan. Aslan was a “good lion, who would not break my doll dishes when he played with me.” Yeah, I actually remember saying that.
I was completely unprepared for what my parents told me that night. “C. S. Lewis died today. The man who wrote the Narnia books.”
I suppose, somewhere in the back of my brain, I might have known that the stories in the books were not about a real place, but that was always completely overshadowed by the truth of the stories. So this was a terrible blow, not because some man in England had died, but because it meant that NARNIA WAS NOT REAL. It was like they had hit me in the face, and inside, I was angry and humiliated. I remember lying awake that night, feeling miserable.
I’m not sure why my parents thought it was right to tell me. Good grief, we’d just had the whole thing about Kennedy. But I have to admit that they probably did not predict how it would affect me. And I never could express it to them, because I felt so humiliated and immature. I guess I eventually recovered from the humiliation, but I still think about that every year at this time.
So now all of you can go back to remembering where you were when Kennedy died, and I’ll go back to my bookshelves where in my childhood head, Narnia is still real.