I love stories. Ever since I can remember I've LOVED stories. Stories about anything,but mostly stories about magic. My parents would read to me as a child and I even remember when I couldn't quite read yet - I'd take a large stack of Bernstein Bears books, or beautiful hard bound child's fairy tales like Beauty and the Beast, or elegantly illustrated stories like Heckity Peg, and sit and look over the pictures and the words for hours. I had a bedside lamp before I had Barbie Dolls. I had a mini-chalk board to scribble the words I saw in books before I could actually read them. I remember what joy I felt when I learned to write my name; and would stand in front of my chalk board for hours writing it over and over - waiting for the day when I'd write my own story, or better yet, be part of the stories I loved to listen to, and craved to read on my own. As I grew up I never tired of reading. I read before I went to bed every night, and recall many a late night absolutely having to stay up and finish the stories I had begun. My parents would come down in the morning and find my reading lamp still on, and books tangled up in my bed sheets. Incidentally, I was a terror to try and get up in the morning for school. But those late nights of Boxcar Children, Babysitters Club, Sweet Valley High, Nancy Drew, Mary Higgins Clark ( I thought I was finally entering the world of "adult literature" with that particular phase) To Kill a Mockingbird, The Outsiders, The Scarlet Letter...are something I treasure During elementary school I remember reading time was my favorite time. I would get so wrapped up in my story, I'd look up from my book some astronomical amount of time later and find that we were half-way through our Math lesson and I hadn't even noticed. Needless to say, I'm very bad at Math. Sadly, as we grow we forget these small joys for a little while. I did. Although I was sure I'd be an English Major since I learned what a "major" was - with college comes much less time for leisure reading, not to mention the reality of making it along in this world: bills, studying, school, plans for the future, goals, trying to make a difference in a world where it seems like nothing really ever DOES make a difference, reaching to find the Fairy Tale "right after I graduate", "when I get married", "when I have the money..." I became one of those "realists" - and put away my Fairy Tale dreams. It wasn't in an instant - but rather a slow ebbing away of whimsical dreams, and replacing it with stark realities. Necessary sorrows.
Sometimes I dread bringing children into this world. I know I will get to someday, and I don't know how I can protect them from all the sadness, "stark realities", that shadow our everyday. It's nice to be reminded that there is some good, some charity, something a little more magical than just "what is" out there. I believe stories - stories like Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium, Peter Pan, The Hobbit, the Goose Girl, Treasure Island, Mary Poppins, Harry Potter - stories that take us out of "our world" and create one where anything is possible, where there is good being done without an agenda, where we can feel safe and hopeful without doubt or pessimism, where we can journey with others for awhile through their dark and weary trials, but know they will always come out on the other side, that are part of the answer to keeping our children from becoming gloomy, melancholy, "realists" - at least becoming those things all the time. Good triumphs over evil. What about a place where there's modern day Repunzzal's, Prince Charming's (sigh - yes I HAVE to believe that), Gandalf's, Tin Man's, Gingerbread Men, Mother Goose's, good Kings and wise Queens? Why shouldn't there be these things? Why - before we "have" to give up our stories - can't we believe that Neverland exists? Or there are dragons in caves and trolls under bridges? Where everyone has a Fairy Godmother or owns a magical Toy Shop? Why not take break from reality and live in these fantastical moments for a little while? Maybe just believe in the Happy Endings?
It's not unrealistic - it's hope. In all these stories it's always darkest before the dawn, there's always something the characters have to overcome - whether it be a raging Dragon, a Wicked Witch, a corrupt Ruler, self-doubt, or even death - but the point is they overcome. Not to mention having a few magical side adventures with Cheshire Cats or woodland nymphs along the way. CS Lewis, in his book"The Magicians Nephew " from the Narnia series, puts it this way "When things go wrong; you'll find they usually go on getting worse for some time; but when things once start going right they often go on getting better and better." They will get better - and why not try and help the "better" by not being so wrapped up in the gloom, and try to not only create "a land far far away" but live in it once in awhile. I see nothing wrong with a little make-believe; "When each day is the same as the next, it's because people fail to recognize the good things that happen in their lives everyday that the sun rises" (Paulo Coelho "The Alchemist).
So this is what happens when I watch Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium, alone, on a Friday night. :) I decide that the world is too much gloom and doom and a pirate ship or pixie dust might do it some good. But I've always thought that - I just have to be reminded of it now again with a good story.
"Life is an occasion; rise to it," Mr. Magorium