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Of Memphis, Corinth and Narnia

This past spring, my wife and I took our three daughters and headed north for a day trip.

The only real goal was to have fun together and to briefly visit the place where I spent most of the first decade of my life — the Crossroads City, Corinth. Secondary goals came up as we went, like stopping at Tupelo to visit Elvis’ birthplace (where we bought too many souvenirs) and scooting up and over to Memphis to see Graceland (where we added our names and more to the stone wall and sidewalk out front, along with thousands of others). We also ate some dynamite barbecue at Uncle Lou’s Southern Kitchen.

In Corinth, we ate slugburgers at Borrum’s Drug Store — if you’re not sure what either of these are, look it up and enjoy — and White Trolley Café; toured the Corinth Civil War Interpretive Center, which sits atop the rolling hills where my siblings and I played just a couple of blocks from where we lived; and visited just about any other place that piqued our interest that day. And we did it all in the middle of intermittent downpours of rain.

I was awake 23 hours, about half of which was spent driving, and I loved every bit of it — mainly because I was surrounded by family. The hours on the road went by quickly with my girls telling jokes and stories, laughing and singing aloud to whatever songs they chose to play or recall en masse.

As we drove through the streets of Corinth, memories flooded back into the forefront of my mind. I saw myself walking into the doors of the public library where my aunt had worked, remembered playing in the huge expanses of the city park (which somehow shrank since I was little), saw what I believe was the old barbershop where I used to get shorn, drove slowly down the pathway between the unmarked graves of Civil War soldiers in Corinth National Cemetery.

But one building triggered memories I did not expect.

As we crossed Tate Street on Fulton Drive I saw the small brick building just to the left of the intersection — Corinth Theatre-Arts, or what used to be known as the Little Theatre. When I saw it, a sudden realization came over me that this building was where I fell in love.

It wasn’t a romantic love in the typical sense, but the true spark of a lifelong love for the works of C. S. Lewis. I had read “The Chronicles of Narnia” or at least some of them before my dad took me to see “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” at the theatre and was already a fan. But when I saw the characters come to life before me I knew that this story had become something more to me.

I’m not sure how many times I’ve read each of the seven installments of the Narnia books or seen the various films based on them, but I can tell you my favorite “chapter” (“The Magician’s Nephew”) and a few of my favorite characters (Aslan, Digory, Reepicheep and Mr. Beaver). I’ve read almost everything I can get my hands on about the books and their creator, and have spent much of my educational years studying C. S. Lewis and his complete works of fiction and non-fiction. My master’s thesis was developed around the Christian apologetic method of Lewis as presented in his works of fiction outside of “The Chronicles of Narnia.”

Say what you will, the life and works of this British literature professor and amateur theologian has meant a lot to me even when I disagree with his viewpoints and methods. And it rekindled the spark of love I have with his books when I saw the physical place where they first really came alive for me.

That day trip included a stop for a photo op in front of the hospital where I was born, the birth and death locales for the King of Rock and Roll, the final resting places for the bodies of many Civil War soldiers, and the birthplace of my obsession with Lewis. A trip that became a matter of life and death.

That’s a lot for just 23 hours.

Brett Campbell can be reached at brett.campbell@dailyleader.com.