I started rereading the Anne of Green Gables series last week when the husband was traveling because I missed him and hate sleeping alone. When I'm feeling lonely or tired or sick, two things always make me feel better: my old red sweater, which is really more of a blanket with arms at this point, and one of my best-loved books. It might be the Little House books or the Song of the Lioness Series by Tamora Pierce, Jane Eyre or Pride and Prejudice, A Wrinkle in Time or A Witch on Blackbird Pond. I just want a book that feels like an old friend, something I can read effortlessly and still feel transported. So, last week I decided to check in with Anne Shirley.
I really meant to just read Anne of Green Gables -- I have new books downloaded and waiting on the Kindle -- but I can't ever stop with just one in the series. I get so caught up in the world of Avonlea and the romance with Gilbert Blythe that I go tearing into "just one more" and end up reading the books far too late into the night, just as I did as a 10-year-old.
So, here I am in the middle of Anne of Windy Poplars, in which Anne is a principal at a high school, waiting for Gilbert to finish medical school so they can head off to their House of Dreams. (I'll be on that book tomorrow.) And I find myself having thoughts, deep thoughts.
I haven't read these books in about three years, maybe even longer. I'm not sure I've read them since the boys were born. Reading them with adult eyes -- not "fresh out of college" adult or "planning my wedding, only care about Gilbert and Anne" adult, but "2 kids, a dog, a mortgage and where-is-my-career-going questions" adult -- I've been struck by how much I admire Anne Shirley, the adult. I really think she is a feminist role model.
OK, so I know there are people who would harumph at that last bit. She leaves her career after just three years to get married and keep house for her doctor husband. She has a college degree but ends up staying home with six kids and a housekeeper. She wastes her talent. All of that seems to add up to the anti-feminist. Even I remember being a bit disappointed in housewife Anne when I read the books the first time, so long ago.
But, she is the first girl from her small town to get a college degree. She earns her way through. She dumps a seemingly perfect, boring, traditional man to marry her best friend. She leaves her teaching career, but SHE CHOOSES. She continues to write. She teaches and inspires a number of smart, talented writers; she raises a half dozen smart, talented children and endures the death of two. Her husband hires her a housekeeper when she's ill. Her husband also helps some with the house and children.
Consider that all of that is at the turn of the century. Put that into modern terms and what you have is a woman who decided to freelance so she could work and have a good family life. At the very least, she is a model for work-life balance.
I guess what I'm really finding inspiring in these books this time through is the idea that there are many ways to use your talents. The key is seeking out those ways and approaching life with an open mind and heart. If that's sounds cheesy, well, I did warn you I've been reading L.M. Montgomery for a week.
In other, lighter Anne of Green Gables news, I really think someone needs to write a screenplay for a romantic comedy based on a small story from Windy Poplars about a girl named Nora Nelson. She's about to be an old maid, but winds up with her true love -- and a bloody nose -- thanks to Anne and a light in a window. It's one of my very favorite anecdotes in the books. If you know what I'm talking about, we should trade Anne of Green Gables emails. We'll write the screenplay together.