I grew up in a world of make believe.
Every week I went to the St. Louis County Library and sat on the floor near the shelves, reading each spine, looking for something to captivate me. I read every Redwall, every Nancy Drew, every Three Investigators. I read entire series that I have now forgotten the names of, but the details remain: dragons and murders and seers and trolls and mages and detectives.
I explored dusty cupboards with Coraline, I swept down the Mississippi River with Huck and Jim, and I spent a hot, lazy summer in Alabama with Scout and Jem. I, too, broke into the Metropolitan Museum of Art to find out more about the mixed-up files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, and I, too, got down to business to defeat the Huns. I walked the ramparts of Redwall Abbey. I explored the markets of Agrabah. I wandered through the forests of Athens with Hippolyta and Puck. I’ve seen Narnia and Rivendell and the forest moon of Endor.
I stayed up way too late with a cheap book light, covers pulled over my head, book balanced on my knees. I drafted long novels in terrible handwriting, writing myself into the stories I loved so much. If a story I fell in love with was part of a series, I read every book, watched every film — all to keep the story alive. I wanted it to last as long as possible.
There’s always that old belief that it’s unhealthy to get so wrapped up in fairy tales. It can’t be healthy to want to be somewhere else all the time. I know I’ve mentioned this in a previous blog, but my ex-boyfriend always got so exasperated when I got wrapped in dreams of far-off countries and cultures. But I disagree. There’s nothing healthier.
I am a better person because my imagination ran wild. I know perseverance and I know faith and I know honesty and loyalty and truth. I know the value of curiosity and raw emotion, but I know a logical mind can almost always triumph. I know how hard it is to do right when everyone else is doing wrong, and maybe it’s childish, and maybe it’s silly, but I gather personal strength from the fictional characters I have grown to love. Meg Murry found her father and Frodo destroyed the ring and Inigo Montoya defeated the six-fingered man. If they can do that, lord knows I can deal with whatever my life throws at me.
So I’m still waiting for my letter to Hogwarts, and I’m still waiting for the Dread Pirate Roberts to sweep me away to his ship, and I’m waiting for that impossible blue box to land in my backyard. They may never come, but I will wait. And if I wait, and if I don’t lose hope, know this: I will find something fantastic. Because these fictional characters have given me a taste for the impossible, and I will never be the same again.