Literary Megs, volume one

I’m not sure when my parents sat me down to have “the talk” with me — you know, the one where we discuss the origin of my name. (Why, where did you think I was going with that?!) Throughout my childhood, I can easily recall my mom talking about a mini-series she adored in the early ’80s — “The Thorn Birds,” starring Richard Chamberlain and Rachel Ward. The story of Meggie, the daughter of a sheep herder in Australia, and her great love affair with the handsome and ambitious Father Ralph de Bricassart, this epic saga first aired on ABC in March of 1983, two years before my birth.

thorn_birdsI was a little late joining the party, but Alyce from At Home With Books recently discussed one of her favorite reads from the past — Maureen McCullough’s The Thorn Birds, the novel upon which the mini-series was based. The summer I turned sixteen, my mom gave me an inscribed hardcover copy of the book and told me I was finally old enough to read and understand the story. As it deals with some pret-ty controversial themes — seducing a priest and prompting him to break his convenant with God is generally, um, frowned upon — I wasn’t really sure what I was in for. But I spent the month and a half between my birthday and the first day of school steadily making my way through the tome, which measures out to almost 700 pages. I was as enchanted with it as my mother was, reveling in the heartbreak, indecision and deep turmoil almost all of McCullough’s doomed characters seemed to face.

Meggie and Father Ralph in "The Thorn Birds" (1983)

Meggie and Father Ralph in "The Thorn Birds" (1983)

Not long after finishing the novel, Mom and I sat down to watch the mini-series — available then as a set of VHS tapes. We didn’t make it through all of them, I know, but I watched enough to smile fondly as my mom pointed out that when I was born with a full head of dark hair and grew older with dark curls, I actually bore a resemblance to my famous literary (and cinematic) namesake. My name, it seems, was fated.

For all of these reasons, Meghann — or “Meggie” — has always had a special place in my own life story. I know other Megans and Megs who also got their monikers from mothers who loved the television show or novel, and I love that we all share that connection! One of these days I’m definitely going to finish watching the series, which I’m happy to say is now out on DVD. Heartbreak, romance and turmoil join the twenty-first century!

Let’s just hope the name isn’t a self-fulfilling prophecy — I certainly wouldn’t want to be responsible for anyone breaking their covenant with God and leaving the priesthood. Though my tresses and brooding, mischevious looks have been known to inspire serenades! (Just, you know. Once or twice.)