Hello there, friends!
Forgive me for being MIA. Quite honestly, I haven’t had the energy for blogging. But I miss you all! I plan to give you a nice Spring Bookshelf post soon, but for now I thought I’d write about what I’m currently finishing up: the Anne of Green Gables series.
I was poking around for comfort books to read, and right around that time my Mom and I watched the movie Anne of Green Gables with Judah and Amelie for their first time. They adored it! Amelie said, “Oh Mom, I just love Anne. She has the best imagination, doesn’t she!?” And Amelie has had a “window friend” ever since, which is, now that I think of it, truly what I always hoped for in a daughter.
So I decided to read back through the series of books. I haven’t read them beginning to end since I first got married, and I was surprised at how much I’d forgotten. Now, I love the Anne movies — at least the original Anne of Green Gables and Anne of Green Gables, The Sequel — after that I stopped watching them.
But I’m reminded that if you’ve only watched the movies and haven’t read the books, you’ve missed out on so much! The series is full of sparkle and insight that the movies just can’t capture. Growing up I enjoyed the books for their stories and romances, but reading them again as a 35-year-old has me struck with just how profound L.M. Montgomery’s writing is. Old-fashioned it may be, but the true lessons I’ve gleaned from Anne this time around are timeless.
Here are a few I’ve been mulling over:
1. Be a lover of nature
From the very first moment we meet Anne, on the carriage ride with Matthew Cuthbert to Green Gables, she’s exulting over nature. And she never stops. I love the way Anne has an actual relationship with flowers and trees and brooks and meadows. She notices them. She enjoys them as if they’re friends.
As a little girl she builds imaginary playhouses with Diana and names her favorite spots, as a college student, she goes for long walks, and as a busy mother of six, she gardens. Her enthusiasm for the great outdoors is so genuine and contagious, that her children grow up loving it too.
Anne makes me want to get outside, open my eyes, and see the things around me — not in order to make a nature lesson for my kids, but just for the sheer pleasure of it.
2. Never lose your imagination
One of the things that makes Anne so beloved is that she’s no stranger to adversity. Orphaned as a baby, she lived in and out of the orphanage and foster care until age eleven. It seems that one of the gifts that saved Anne during those heart-breaking years was her imagination.
She had imaginary friends. She loved poems and stories. She spun stories about people, or pretended that life could be different than what it was. And don’t we love her for it? Her imagination was a wonderful comfort and joy to her, both as an orphan, and later as an adopted daughter.
And as a grown up too! One of my favorite conversations Anne has with her children ends with her saying to her daughter, with the wisdom of someone who has lived and knows, “An imagination is a wonderful thing to have . . . but like every gift we must possess it and not let it possess us . . . you must learn to keep on this side of the borderline between the real and the unreal. Then the power to escape at will into a beautiful world of your own will help you amazingly through the hard places of life.”
3. Determine to see the best in people and in life
This is Anne’s second gift that allowed her to live a difficult life without becoming consumed by despair and resentment. There’s a way to read Anne’s story in two narratives: one of her seeing the best in people, and one of her fearing the worst. I found myself reflecting back over the books and thinking of the things she could have chosen to feel about her life.
Even after she found a home, Matthew and Marilla certainly weren’t always ideal caregivers. Marilla could be gruff and strict. Matthew was shy and quirky. They didn’t have a lot of money. And Anne always knew she wasn’t pretty — at least not in the way other girls were. There were hard seasons for her and losses and people that were unkind, and she married a doctor who worked incredibly long hours.
But from the very beginning she had this amazing strength of character that said, “I choose to find the best.”
Because of that, Anne’s life turns out very, very differently from the way it might’ve (you can contrast her to Katherine Brooke, for instance). It isn’t trouble-free, but it is rich in the best of ways: with people and with gratitude.
4. Stay young at heart
I love the Meredith children’s speculation about grown-up Anne . . .
“They say she isn’t like other people,” said Jerry.
“Mrs. Elliott says that is because she never really grew up,” said Faith.
“She’s taller than Mrs. Elliott.”
“Yes, yes, but it is inside — Mrs. Elliott says Mrs. Blythe just stayed a little girl inside.
I love Anne’s sense of wonder throughout life. I love her imagination. I love that her growing in life responsibilities and wisdom doesn’t come at the expense of her child-likeness.
It makes her a delightful friend and wife, and a wonderful mother. My favorite thing that Anne’s children say about her is that: “Mummy understands.” It doesn’t keep her from setting rules and disciplining and keeping house and sometimes doing things for herself that she enjoys doing. She never tries to be her kids’ best friend. But it means she can put herself into their shoes and truly remember what it felt like to be a child.
They love they way she listens to them. They love that she doesn’t laugh and make light of their funny sayings. They love that she takes their dreams seriously. They feel accepted by her, exactly the way they are.
5. Embrace a simple life
Here’s something that just astounded me on this most recent reading through the books — something I’ve forgotten from years of re-watching the Anne movies and forgetting how the story was changed. Do you know that in the original story, Anne never gets a book published?
I was so certain that was a fact in the movies that I looked avidly for it, but couldn’t find it!
When she graduated from Redmond College, Anne was full of promise. She was smart. She was popular. She’d had several small pieces published in magazines and had lots and lots of potential to do great things.
And she chose the other path.
She settled down. She got married and had a bunch of kids and kept house and reflected that there was no time any more to really write in the way she’d once dreamed of doing.
That is my favorite little hidden gem.
Does Anne ever feel a pang thinking of the “what might have beens”? Yes, probably. But she is happy with the simple life she chose. She keeps learning and growing within the limits of her life. She never ends up needing to prove anything to herself or the world in order to feel joy.
She is content.
She knows that people matter more than success.
This, more than so many things, is what I long to teach my children. Yes, I want to encourage their dreams. Yes, I want them to be passionate and inspired and work hard and have great opportunities. But most of all, I want them to see that success does not always equal what a lot of the world says it does. I want them to see that there is great value in a simple life. And no matter what form it takes, success never, ever makes you happy.
Oh, Anne, thank you for being so delightful and for teaching us so many things!