“Call the police! My car was stolen!”
My brother and cousin left their shopping in the small store and burst into action. “What does it look like?” my brother asked. Once she answered, they ran to the door, shouting over their shoulders. “We’ll find the thieves!”
We gathered around the lady while she called the police. I watched my brother and cousin tear out of the parking lot, wondering if they would return to the store with bullet wounds.
(You should know this was Missoula, Montana back in the late 1980s. Car robberies weren’t too common even if we considered it a large city.)
In just a few minutes, my brother and cousin returned. Free of bullet wounds.
“We found it!” they exclaimed. “Whoever took it drove three stores away and parked in front!”
The lady with the stolen car stopped her crying. “Oh, no,” she said slowly. “This isn’t good.”
She explained that she just remembered that she had parked in front of that store and walked to the furniture store. She had left the store, expecting to see her car out front, and panicked when it wasn’t there.
“No one stole it. I just forgot.”
Every time someone in our family remembers this story, we laugh. We laugh at my brother’s and cousin’s willingness to chase down the robber. We smile at the forgetfulness of the lady.
But I often wonder what the lady feels when she remembers that day. (If she does.)
Sometimes remembering makes you feel awfully silly.
That’s why I believe Susan Pevensie will feel awfully foolish one day when she remembers Narnia again.
In case you didn’t know that Susan forgets Narnia, we find a little information about it in The Last Battle, Chapter 12. King Tirian, the last king of Narnia, is just meeting Digory, Polly, Peter, Edmund, Lucy, Eustace, and Jill. Tirian asks where Susan is.
“My sister Susan,” answered Peter shortly and gravely, “is no longer a friend of Narnia.”
“Yes,” said Eustace, “and whenever you’ve tried to get her to come and talk about Narnia or do anything about Narnia, she says ‘What wonderful memories you have! Fancy your still thinking about all those funny games we used to play when we were children.’”
“Oh Susan!” said Jill, “she’s interested in nothing now-a-days except nylons and lipstick and invitations. She always was a jolly sight too keen on being grown-up.”
“Grown-up, indeed,” said the Lady Polly. “I wish she would grow up. She wasted all her school time wanting to be the age she is now, and she’ll waste all the rest of her life trying to stay that age. Her whole idea is to race on to the silliest time of one’s life as quick as she can and then stop there as long as she can.”
Some people have attacked C.S. Lewis for this passage. While some say Peter is too unconcerned about it, I see pain in his response. Others say C.S. Lewis was afraid of women, and that’s why Susan can’t wear makeup and go to Narnia. However, I’ve already stated why that is false. What the critics forget is that Susan made choices. Her choices kept her away from the train station that morning. Peter and the rest of the them were killed and taken to Aslan’s Country. Susan was the lone Pevensie left in this world.
And perhaps there was a deeper reason for that. Perhaps Susan needed a little more time here on Earth to remember.
Just because Susan Pevensie forgot Narnia doesn’t mean she will never remember Aslan.
The books never says Susan cannot reach Aslan’s Country. Her story simply isn’t finished. Lewis himself explained that fact in The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis:
“I could not write that story myself. Not that I have no hope of Susan ever getting into Aslan’s country, but because I have a feeling that the story of journey would be longer and more like a grown-up novel than I wanted to write. But I may be mistaken. Why not try it yourself?”
Besides, I forget all the time. Important stuff. Little stuff. Most of it comes back. (If you know where my lipstick is, let me know.)
Forgetting is normally followed with a time of remembering.
In fact, we find it most heartbreaking when the ability to remember doesn’t work the way it should, as in the case of Alzheimer’s and dementia. One dear friend shared that her mother’s memory was, “like a shaken snow globe. The memories seemed to be swirling around in her head, came randomly without coaxing and left just as swiftly.” Where I would tend to use words like ‘destroy’ to describe these terrible diseases, friends who have watched their loved ones fight them used vivid word pictures like “The ability to remember dissolves like sugar in the rain” and “I watch another little piece of the person who taught me to read and write just blow away like a fallen rose petal.”
But Susan Pevensie didn’t have Alzheimer’s. She just forgot.
And, although this is a fallen world, and some things are never remembered, most often humans forget and then remember. And then forget and then remember again.
Forgetting is not always permanent. After it comes remembering.
Even Lewis alludes to this remembering in the dedication of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe:
My Dear Lucy,
I wrote this story for you, but when I began it I had not realized that girls grow quicker than books. As a result you are already too old for fairy tales, and by the time it is printed and bound you will be older still. But some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again. You can then take it down from some upper shelf, dust it, and tell me what you think of it. I shall probably be too deaf to hear, and too old to understand a word you say but I shall still be
your affectionate Godfather, C.S. Lewis
Perhaps upon returning to this world, Susan focused on the adventure and forgot the Adventure-Maker. And when life ceased to be an adventure, she had already forgotten Aslan.
But Susan doesn’t need to remember Narnia to get into Aslan’s country.
With The Last Battle, Narnia is gone. While the memories may lead her to find God in this world, don’t forget that the Pevensies’ parents ended up in Aslan’s Country without even going to Narnia.
Aslan says that the purpose of the children going to Narnia was so that they would be able to find Him better in this world. Peter, Edmund, and Lucy found God in our world. Susan, at the time of her siblings’ death, hadn’t yet.
But there’s that powerful word.
Susan’s story isn’t finished yet.
I wish this is something people would repeat to themselves as they criticize Lewis. (But I think they would forget.) (See what I did there?)
Susan has a horrible path to walk. Her whole family survived World War II. Then they all die in a train wreck at once. I can’t begin to fathom her grief.
I think this is one of the reasons we struggle with Susan. We leave her there in her forgetting. We don’t see her when she receives a phone call about the train wreck that will forever change her life.
That’s why the next story needs to be written. One of Susan a dozen years later. Still forgetting Aslan. Or at least trying to.
Susan is now married with two children. When trouble strikes, she is forced to sort through the possessions of her family and friends killed in the train accident. The remembering begins. Much like frostbite that must have nipped at her toes when first in Narnia, the thawing hurts. But she has to sort through letters, pictures, clothes of her parents and siblings.
When the grief grows too deep, Susan collapses with a plea for help. A warm breath of air caresses her face and blows away her tears. She breathes in deep, feeling the strength of a lioness returning to her. Courage overtakes fear. Love conquers darkness.
And grief slowly gives away to something she hasn’t felt for a long time.
She has found Aslan in this world.
She remembers. Every moment. Every little tiny detail from the bravest giant all down to the smallest of mice.
And from then on, she never forgot again. Well, sometimes she did, just as we all do when life gets busy.
How do I know all this?
Because I once scoffed at the dedication in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and swore I would never forget. But I did. Until something amazing happened.