If you were floating around Twitter for the bulk of last night, you may have seen some odd things. For instance, a single tweet that just said “Prawns.”
Or a hashtag #bosomfiend.
These things came about because my friend Kristin McFarland (who, on a much more serious note, interviewed me on Wednesday for her Why Write project) and I have been reading through the Anne of Green Gables books. She came across them between undergrad and grad school; I found Anne when my grandmother gave me the Canadian films when I was a kid. I somehow made it to adulthood having never read the books, but I can’t say that anymore.
Kristin got me to read the books, so I thought it was only fair I get her to see the movies.
Last night we settled in, three states apart, to watch them.
We sighed over Gilbert Blythe, tried to hug Matthew Cuthbert through the screen, and fell in love with that little redhead all over again.
It made me wonder how a rather simple story about an orphan girl finding family and love could affect me as much as it did when I was a kid. I remember seeing Anne shriek at Rachel Lynde and calling her fat and wishing I had the guts to stand up to the people who were mean to me. I remember seeing her break a slate over Gilbert Blythe’s head and knowing that I was learning to take no shit.
Anne rapturously declares to Marilla that she wishes to have a bosom friend, and Marilla chuckles, “A what kind of friend?” But Anne finds in Diana Barry the truest kind of friendship most of us only hope to share with another person.
If you’re truly curious about the public side of our screening for these films, check out the Twitter hashtags #solemnvow and #bosomfriends.
As we were watching, I got to thinking. It’s always a bit funny to watch something you loved as a child with an adult perspective. Some things you’ll watch and wonder where you ever got the idea that it was a good use of your time. Other times, you’re struck by the layers of meaning, the hidden purpose, and the power that remains, turning memory to new discovery.
That’s how it’s been with me for Anne of Green Gables.
Reading the books was like diving into a richer world, learning and growing alongside Anne. There were new characters to meet who I could tell had been distilled and shifted, combined and compressed into characters in the film. There were familiar moments of fear and trepidation and love.
Watching the films as a child, I don’t think I ever quite understood the fullness of what happened when Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert decided to keep Anne Shirley even though they’d sent for a boy.
As a child, I just wanted Anne to be able to stay at Green Gables because she loved the place so. She seemed so self-sufficient to me that I never questioned her ability to survive elsewhere. Through the years, though, and now having read the books as an adult, that moment is something more altogether.
She arrives at Green Gables with more adult experiences than a child should have. Caretaking, housekeeping, even medicinal knowledge. She’s capable, intelligent, independent. She’s a dreamy little kid, who escaped the harsh reality around her by fleeing into the boundless wealth of imagination.
More and more, when I relive this story, I see myself. Just like Anne, I fled poverty and chores and cruelty at school and the stress of many, many moves by fleeing into my imagination. Into countless books and worlds. When something didn’t exist, like Anne, I made it up. And I yearned for a bosom friend, just as she did.
Anne greeted the world with a sense of awe and wonder, allowing it to thrill her in a way most people don’t. She showed Marilla and Matthew that in spite of her misfortunes, the world was still a beautiful place. And when she arrived, they knew that sending her back could end up breaking her, snuffing out that light that she allowed to shine so brightly.
They made the decision to take that child and give her love. To give her love and family and an education and an opportunity. An elderly pair of unmarried siblings wanted to give Anne Shirley more scope for her imagination.
And oh, the love.
Anne Shirley is a veritable magnet for it. She wins Matthew over the first time she speaks to him. And Marilla the first time Anne tucks her trusting hand into that of the older woman’s. She dazzles Gilbert with her resolve, her perseverance, and her intelligence. And, of course, there’s Diana, Anne’s bosom friend.
When I think about the love this child found, it’s made even more poignant fully understanding from an adult perspective what exactly Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert did for her. It reminds me that it’s what I got from my second mom and later, my stepdad. The ability of an adult to raise a strange child as his or her own. I benefited from that kind of love as well. And like Anne, I’ve continually reaped the blessings of love in this life. From finding Jordan and Julia (MY first real bosom friends, who walked me down the aisle) to my loving husband, who is a true partner in life.
Kristin and I spent several hours last night watching these films a couple hundred miles apart from her. At one point, we were discussing another film we both love and Capclave (which she is joining me for), and Kristin said, “Plus, we’ll have known each other for like two years by then and NO MEETING. It’s outrageous.” And it’s true. We’ve been chatting on almost a daily basis for a year and a half. We watched Anne and Diana skip about the beaches of Prince Edward Island, and that struck me all over again. Technology has made it possible to form friendships with people hundreds or thousands of miles away. We’ve done Google hangouts and talked on the phone. We’ve “introduced” our husbands via video and shown each other our critters.
For all our rather goofy tweets about Miss Fortune and bosom fiends last night, we really are friends.
This world still holds wonder.
The best thing about watching something like Anne of Green Gables with someone who loves the story as much as you do is that it’s a nice reminder to be grateful.
I’ll be damned if that Anne Girl didn’t work her magic again.
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