The Rescuers Down Under is on my long list of fond movies. Yes, it is a story about mice who fly an albatross to Australia to rescue a boy from a poacher. Yes, it has flaws. Yes, the accents are inaccurate. Yes, it’s cheesy and the villain is rather cliché. Yes, I can dissect it to pieces.
As I rewatched it with my littlest brother last night, it was similar to taking the movie in for the first time. He didn’t remember most of the plot, and the eagerness on his face and his enjoyment of the score made it exciting. And I realized that the movie, years back, changed my life.
No, I didn’t get some deep life lesson from the film (though I maintain that if you are looking, you can most always find something). I found Story.
Rewind to my old house, where my Mom tried to teach me to read phonetically and I would turn the pages faster than she could speak because I wanted to know what this big book wanted to say to me next, where I would sit in my Dad’s home office and he would read aloud Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories.
Fast forward a little bit to one of my very rare exposures to the French language. My third grade teacher, a former missionary in France, read aloud to us at the end of every school day. That was the time of day when Aslan roared and the Witch shuddered and grew pale, when Reepicheep tasted the easternmost seas, when Laura Ingalls found beads in the dust and delighted when the wrong color of bows were put in her hair. Every hour was threaded with stories in third grade, but the last hour was the crowning glory.
My love of stories was sharp and awake by the time I saw Down Under. And Down Under proved to be the condensation point.
I put myself in the story for the first time.
I was jumping into the river to help save Codie, sometimes. Other times I was Codie, helpless and brave, and fighting for the life of one bird even as I nearly drowned. Every time, I was standing up to someone bigger and cruel and wrong. And I was living and breathing and changing a story. Growing an idea.
And my imagination grew. I added in other characters I invented into the scene. I suppose, though I just now realize it, there was the tinest hint of my character Jayson Lewis in there. Some part of my mind maintains that a similar waterfall scene is somewhere in Shattering the Dark or its sequels.
A story opened its door and I walked in. Into Australia, interestingly enough. But the stories didn’t stop there. I read all of the Narnia books. I read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. I couldn’t sleep well one night because I had to stop reading right in the middle of Gandalf’s battle with the Balrog in Moria. I ripped off the stories I loved, and stumbled into my own. I’m still stumbling around stacking words, but I’m not as lost in the current as I used to be. And that’s good, because sometimes not knowing means that you find the biggest thoughts.
Even if it takes a movie about an eagle and talking mice set in Australia.