Grandma Kish’s Narnia Box
Rural Wisconsin reminds me of Narnia when it snows. I feel transported to a quiet, sparkly, magical place where anything is possible. As I reflected on this landscape and thought about my family all preparing to come together for Christmas, the thing I most noticed was that Christmas just isn’t the same without my mother in law. We all miss her. Grandma Kish held some family traditions for us. For one, she was a librarian and she personally curated books for the entire family year-round. She always hand selected books for everyone that were somehow exactly what each of us needed in the moment. It might be a book that was thought-provoking, challenging, comforting, helpful, inspirational, or just fun. It was always chosen intentionally to open your mind, open your heart, or soothe your soul. They weren’t always “age appropriate.” The children might get The Chronicles of Narnia at age 6 and Grandpa might get a Dr. Seuss book. The kids might each get one of the books in a series and have to work together to read them. The kids got the first Harry Potter book before any of them could read their first chapter book which meant my family’s first experience of Harry Potter was me reading it aloud to them every night at bedtime.
I realized that someone needed to start hand selecting books for the family again and that I now hold the title “Grandma Kish” and this task is part of my job. As I was reflecting on these things, I thought of all the Little Free Library boxes that I see in my hometown in Wisconsin. These are special little mail-type boxes that people put up in front of their homes and businesses that kids can stop and visit for free books. Somehow, all of these ideas coalesced into one project. I decided to put a Little Free Library Box up out in the snowy woods and secret books away out there for my family to find as gifts from Grandma Kish. It’s Grandma Kish’s Narnia Box. I had to get Grandpa Kish to help me install it. This is a gift in itself. The boys normally help me with my random construction projects. But Steve and I wanted it to be a surprise for them. So, we did some research, bought our supplies, consulted YouTube, and managed to install our Narnia Box before the first snow.
This year, for Christmas, Steve and I unveiled Grandma Kish’s Narnia Box to our family on Christmas day after all the presents were opened. My husband’s family was with us from California. We shared the vision, which I couldn’t actually do without crying and making almost everyone else cry. I envisioned everyone having to bundle up and hike out into the snow to the strange little box in the woods. As it turns out, it was unseasonably warm on Christmas day and there was no snow. We didn’t even wear jackets outside. We walked on out to our little free library box and opened it to find a wrapped book hand selected for everyone in the family. Hand selecting books for everyone was much harder than it might seem. I hope I got close. We opened our books and shared our titles and laughed and cried a little more.
What books did we all get? Steve and I suffered over this part. I think we only got it mostly right.
Steve – “My book is command. It’s called ‘Make Your Bed.'” by Admiral William McCraven.
Hannah – “You are a Badass” by Jen Sincero.
Harrison – “My First Toddler Coloring Book” and Toddler crayons.
Greg – “How to Fight Presidents” by Daniel O’Brien.
Jeanne – “A Prayer Book for Catholic Women” She said, “I guess my mom thinks I need to pray more.” Maybe I should have bought her something more fun. I’ll have to do better next year.
Bill – “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind” by Harari.
Andrew – “How to Cook Everything” by Mark Bittman.
Carrie – “The Backyard Beekeeper.” I’m getting bees next spring. More stories to come!
Dylan – “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion” by Robert Cialdini.
Robert – “Talking to Strangers” by Malcolm Gladwell.
Jessica – “The 1 Book: How Many People Does it Take to Make a Difference.”
Caroline – “Prayer Journal for Women.” She seemed to really like this one.
Nathan – “Raising Men” by Eric Davis.
Justin – “How to Cook Everything: The Basics” by Mark Bittman. He said, “I got the same book as Andrew only with pictures and not as many words.”
Josephine – “Girl, Wash Your Face” by Rachel Hollis which is a great book by a wonderful coach who helps women stop believing the lies about who they think they’re supposed to be so they can become who they were meant to be.
For those of you studying the picture, the people you may not know are Josephine’s parents, Greg and Caroline. Josephine insisted on taking the picture. So, she is there, just behind the camera. She looked beautiful in her pajamas.
Nathan and Justin wanted to know how on earth we managed to pull it off without their help. I admitted buying my Little Free Library box built from The Tiny Library on Amazon. They inspected it and said that it was built and installed well and should survive any attempts by the weather to transport it by tornado to live in Oz with the shed Steve and I built last summer.
I don’t know all the magic Grandma Kish’s Narnia Box will continue to deliver over the years. But I am delighted to embark upon this magical journey with my family.