happy birthday, Anne

I learned lots of things from this weekend's Globe and Mail. Alberta is hurting the country, according to Jeffrey Simpson. By maintaining a fixer in Afghanistan for longer than six weeks -- rather, keeping up trust and contact for nearly two years -- you can interview 42 members of the Taliban to interesting effect (but what then happens to the fixer?). And, Anne of Green Gables is 100 years old.

It's this last fact I hold closest.

Let me backtrack for just a moment -- bear with me, and apologies for the personal trek down memory lane.

In my family we do not have aunts. And certainly, I do not have any "awnts," as the Maritimers might say. I have tsias (the Italians) and aunties (the French-Canadians and Swedes). And Aunty Pam is my favourite.

There are many reasons for this -- geographical proximity when I was very young, my inability to remember a time when Aunty Pam wasn't part of my life and giggling, and of course, presents. What can I say? Like every other kid, I was pretty fickle when it came to likes and dislikes, and a good present went a long way with me.

She was the first person to give me a diary. It looked like a denim jean pocket and had a lock on its side, even though there was no one in my house with any interest in reading my diary. Still, I hid the key. Its clean white pages invited all the worries of an eight-year-old girl, and on its very first page my aunt scrawled a note. I don't remember the note, but I do remember the handwriting. I used to try to copy that handwriting.

Aunty Pam also offered a second inspiration to my young dreams of one day becoming a writer. She gave me the first three books in the Anne of Green Gables set -- Anne of Green Gables, Anne of Avonlea, and Anne of the Island. My favourite was the first. My second favourite the third. Later, when I read the rest of the set, I had a serious soft spot for Rainbow Valley, and Rilla of Ingleside pulled up alongside the first favourites. (Anne's House of Dreams, though, bored me to tears.)

I wanted to be L.M. Montgomery. I wanted to be Anne. I wanted red hair, and to have my stories published in newspapers, and I wanted a posse of girl friends to boss around and make re-enact Tennyson poems. I wanted children to arbitrarily love me, and I wanted to be an adored teacher. I wanted to have silly adventures, although I had no interest in accidentally making my best friend drunk.

I know, I've talked about this before. The gift of these works, though, were they were my first ticket to CanLit. They bridged the gap between the Beverly Cleary and Judy Blume books I first read on my own, and all the books I would later read as an adult. They were stories of Canadiana, of a pastoral time before the time I knew. They made me imagine what fresh-fallen snow might look like if there were no cars, and what roads and highways might have looked like if Anne had had her way and farmers hadn't been allowed to hang advertisements on their fences.

For all these dreams and imaginings, I owe my aunty.

1 comment:

erin said...

I don't remember how I got my first "Anne" book, but I definitely remember my first LM Montgomery was from a great-aunt; it was a collection of the Avonlea short-stories, "Akin to Anne" (engraved on my brain, since I had to ask what akin meant, and the pastels of the cover were divinely beautiful to an 8-year-old). And, while in some ways, I can totally appreciate the longing to be like Anne, I would have given up my red hair for the beautiful black hair and "violet" eyes of Emily, another character of Montgomery's that generated 3 books (and I adored as much as the Anne books). I find how even now, grizzled and weary of the world that I pretend to be, I still delight in the world on LM Montgomery, and now know that there you're like that too.