“Who are YOU?” said the Caterpillar.
This was not an encouraging opening for a conversation. Alice replied, rather shyly, “I–I hardly know, sir, just at present– at least I know who I WAS when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then.”
(Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland)
I can’t even begin to estimate how many times I’ve read Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Dozens, perhaps, over a span of scores of years. Every time I read it, it touches me at a different level, the place where I am at that moment in my life.
There’s always a caterpillar to ask me the question, and I always seem to give the same answer: I knew who I was this morning, but I seem to have kept changing since then. Child –adolescent — teenager — young woman — young mother– middle aged woman — old woman—
At every age and stage I’ve been Alice, and I’ve been myself. We fall down the rabbit hole together, the Red Queen screams “Off with her head!” at us, we listen wide-eyed to the epic of the fearsome Jabberwock. We share adventures, comical and heroical and frightening, in strange places, among strange and fearsome people. I go with her through the Looking Glass. We’re doubles, she and I.
But Alice is bolder than I. Braver. More curious. Over the years she’s helped me grow bolder, braver, more curious. Grow more like her. Wonderlands can be frightening places, the real ones are REALLY frightening, and yet — however old I get I hope that I will never ever lose a sense of wonder. Never fail to enter Wonderland once again with my companion Alice. She is a lifelong friend.
The power of books, and the characters who inhabit them — Is there an Alice in your life?