On the back cover of the worn paperback copy (copyright 1982, courtesy of my youngest sister-in-law, who abandoned it when she moved out of the homestead house many years back), it describes Charlotte’s Web as “the story of a little girl named Fern who loved a little pig named Wilbur – and of Wilbur’s dear friend Charlotte A. Cavatica, a beautiful large grey spider who lived with Wilbur in the barn. With the help of Templeton, the rat who never did anything for anybody unless there was something in it for him, and by a wonderfully clever plan of her own, Charlotte saved the life of Wilbur, who by this time had grown up to be quite a pig.”

This tattered book has a special place in my heart; it’s a memory of sitting in a second grade classroom, transported to a barn in Maine and into the life of an unlikely hero, alone in my wanderings though surrounded by classmates. It’s the smell of my curled-up afternoons with similar tales and the feel of old-by-the-time-I-was-born afghans curled around me and the comfort of dinner cooking in the kitchen.

I wanted to reread Charlotte’s Web before I went to the movie, but it just didn’t work out (but St. Anthony pulled through for me and I did find the book, after we got back!). It’s a rare movie that makes me hunger for the book, and, to me, the sign of a truly great movie – or maybe a truly enjoyable movie. It’s not often that I sit in the movie theater and get transported to the places of my favorite books, to the times and experiences that have played so vividly in my head, and felt no remorse about the shattering of those places, because they are the same – what’s in my head is on the screen. But, sitting there as Aunt Sarah today, with a row full of two nieces, a nephew, and a dear sister-in-law, it happened. I was swept across time and space and I spent the next hour and 53 minutes away, with the barn folk.

I know there are discrepancies, and I know there are those who will faithfully point them out. I’m sure as I devour the book in the next couple of days I’ll find some of them for myself. But the taste in my mouth is good, and I want to see it again. I want to feel the sting in my eyes – which I do NOT remember feeling before – when Doctor Dorian proclaims, (pardon my failed memory) “It’s quite possible an animal has spoken to me and I was not listening…There will come a day when Fern will not be interested in these things anymore.” Enjoy them while you can. Let her enjoy them while she can. She’s going to grow up too fast anyway. I want to feel the magic of the barn, when Fern takes Wilbur there, and I want to SMELL the barn the way E.B. White describes it and the way the movie showed it. I want to hear Charlotte as I read along and I want to feel the hope, the hope of friendship, the hope of loyalty, the hope of promises kept.

Oh, and did I mention that I’m not a fan of spiders or any kind of bug? But after seeing Charlotte, after spending one hour and 53 minutes entranced, I find I DO like her (and, by association, perhaps also the spiders that live in my barn). I can’t help but think of how I have been touched by the miracle of unconditional love, of how the miracle of friendship has transformed me, of how much difference one person can make in the life of someone else, and I can’t hold it against Charlotte that she was a spider.

Charlotte’s Web gets my highest marks with the statement “We have to buy the DVD.” It will boost our collection to double digits and it will be a movie I snuggle on the couch watching, book nearby, savoring and enjoying, thinking of the injustice in the world and how, really, we can make a difference with the hope that comes from friendship, loyalty, and love.