After completing the seven book series “The Chronicles of Narnia” by C.S. Lewis, my ten-year-old son, asked:
“Do you ever get that sad feeling when you’ve finished a good series and you can’t continue (to read) because there are no more books?”
My heart leapt!
I started to think about my childhood introduction to literature, which began with the first book in the Lewis series, read aloud by my retired neighbor.
My sister and I met our neighbor, Mrs. Olsen one day, while following our dog Cassius on his daily treat rounds. Cassius performed in a traveling neighborhood show, singing for cookies. As it happened, Mrs. Olsen kept a stash of human cookies as well and our visits became a routine thing.
An avid reader, she encouraged and inspired us, by reading stories during our visits. When she read “The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe” and it was like nothing we had ever heard before. We began looking for excuses to visit more often, not just for cookies, but anxious to hear more of the adventures of Lucy and her siblings.
C.S. Lewis, according to his Biography, http://www.biographyonline.net/writers/cs-lewis.html and J.R.R. Tolkien were friends who shared a writers group called Inklings, which met in a pub. Can you imagine being a butterfly on the wall for one of those discussions?
Mrs. Olsen, also a fan of Tolkien, read us “The Hobbit” as well, yet another story my son now loves. As we all anxiously await the film version http://www.thehobbit.com/index.html due out this fall, he has begun reading the “Lord Of The Rings” trilogy.
I am certain I would never have fallen in love with literature had it not been for the kindness of my dear neighbor, Elisa Mitchell Olsen, who also taught me many lessons about life, character and the importance of having a mind of one’s own. I only recently learned she had spent her career working in Publishing, not surprising.
The last time I saw Mrs. Olsen, in 2001, she was a guest at my wedding. Sadly, while my family and I were living in Italy, on February 21, 2009, she passed away. I am forever grateful to her for opening my eyes to the wonderful world inside my imagination, a gift I have since passed on to my own children, as they will for generations to come.