For a generation of British children, growing up in the UK meant there was a good chance that you cut your literary teeth on the writing of Enid Blyton. Amongst her best loved work was an adventure series called “The Secret Seven” and I think it was there that I first learned what it was to lose myself in a story. At the centre of the action was an old garden shed where seven children would perch on upturned flower pots, drink lemonade, solve mysteries, and come up with plans to unmask the latest gang of dastardly villains. The plot lines were not particularly complex but it mattered little, such was the appeal of that band of friends. Long before I found the words to name it, I was pulled in by the sense of belonging and common purpose that bound the children together. So much so that I decided to form my own “Secret Seven.”
The perfect headquarters was already in place. A cellar as thick with dust and cobweb as it was with possibility, accessed by a little wooden door at the side of my grandparents’ house and masked by a wall of tall thick trees.
Somehow I managed to convince six of my classmates to sign up. At the pre-arranged time they stole into my back garden, sneakers tracing a silent path through the long shadows. One by one they knocked on the little door, muttered the secret password and slipped quietly into the underground room.
[Editor's Note: Heidi Johnston is another of our newest contributors. She's the author of Life in the Big Story, and lives just outside of Belfast, Ireland, not far from C. S. Lewis’s birthplace. Andrew and his family got to know her and her sweet family during their visit to Europe last summer and we're delighted to have her here in the Rabbit Room.]
It seems unlikely that an Irish stranger would be invited to pull her chair out of the shadows and join the conversation, yet here I am, and for that I am grateful. As I began to write this post I found myself searching for beautiful words that would somehow be worthy of the rich surroundings. If I’m honest, in my head the accent that is part of who I am began to take on a hint of Tennessee. What I ended up with was a post that may have been beautiful (at least that is what I tell myself) but it wasn’t true. And what is beauty if it isn’t true.
For the past few months, truth in my life has been less about beauty and more about brokenness. Last July I watched helplessly as my ten-year-old daughter faced for the first time the moment when childish innocence is invaded by something dark and cruel, an intruder whose presence is a constant and unwelcome reminder that bad things happen. Unexpectedly diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, she discovered first hand that this story we live in has evil villains and dark forests with monsters who sneak up on us when we least expect it. For every needle that pricked her skin and broke my heart a little more, another question came. It just felt wrong.