It is all snow and crusted ice here, and no safe way to get to church, so thoughts of C.S. Lewis, with Morning Prayer later, are making a substitute this morning.
C.S. Lewis came to mind this weekend as best beloved daughter went through drama concerning how grown up or not she is, and I wondered how best to be present to her, chopped liver that I am.
I thought of Susan, the elder sister of the Pevensie kids, the group that went to the fantasy land Narnia in Lewis' Narnia Chronicles.
Susan is a distant second in Lewis' affections of the two Pevensie girls. Lucy is the one with the pure heart and the red phone to Aslan, the lion who is the guardian divinity of Narnia. Susan is never given much to do in the books, and then, in the last of the series, The Last Battle, she is written out altogether.
The world is ending in this book, and all the English children are present except Susan, who, according to her brother Peter, "is no longer a friend of Narnia."
Jill, one of the non-Pevensies, fills in the details: "Oh Susan... she's interested in nothing nowadays except nylons and lipstick and invitations. She always was a jolly sight too keen on being grown-up."
A wise woman, Lady Polly, then adds, "Grown-up indeed... 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 quickly as she can and then stop there as long as she can."
This time of life, the time of adolescent boy-craziness that masquerades as grown-up womanhood, is obsessing for some, to the point that the ancient Greeks invented a goddess, Persephone, who represented that time as if preserved in amber. Persephone is the girl goddess who is simultaneously a teenager about to be married and a queen of a great kingdom and household. She moves cyclically, spending some of the year with her mother in Olympus, and some of it in the underworld with her husband Hades, never having children, never wholly taking on the life that is familiar to fully mature Greek women.
For Lewis, Susan was stuck in a sinful pattern, and had-- for that moment at least-- lost her salvation. She was not going to get to spend the rest of eternity enjoying the presence of Aslan in a New Narnia that was the allegory of the Christian New Jerusalem.
(Lewis is quoted in a letter as saying, "The books don't tell us what happened to Susan. She is left alive in this world at the end, having by then turned into a rather silly, conceited young woman. But there's plenty of time for her to mend and perhaps she will get to Aslan's country in the end... in her own way.")
Persephone never breaks out of her pattern, which was good for Greek teens who were getting married. They could always walk Persephone's road of becoming a wife, because she always became a wife every year.
But in real life, as I hope for my daughter, this obsessing period is temporary. It is good we have stories that help us cope with times and situations of life that are stressing and can't be solved but only endured. I'm positive-- and praying-- that my daughter, unlike Persephone, will come out of her time of drama into a happy ending that is only a marvelous beginning.
I've always liked this song, which could be Persephone's theme song.