I never wished to be Ann, with an ‘e’

I’m not sure when I got my paperback copy of the beloved Canadian classic, Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery. I think it was a gift from my Aunt, although I can’t be sure. It is too fragile to read now. The spine is cracked and the pages are about to fall out. The paper is turning a dark yellow at the outside edges. It has been well-loved.

I was very much like Anne as a child and even as I became a young woman. I was inquisitive, curious, imaginative, creative and talkative. I used big words for my age, which sometimes made me an outcast and contributed to my feelings of awkwardness in social situations. I felt as homely looking as Anne describes herself, just with different features. A gap in my teeth, a strange cowlick at the front of my hairline. All I really wanted to do was be left alone so I could read.

I have Anne on my mind right now because I am watching the most recent CBC adaptation for television. I love it. It brings back all my memories from the book and the previous movies I have watched over the years. I think Anne is perfectly cast and I watch now with a different eye than I had at previous times of my life. Now, I have a teen daughter of my own, where I find myself muttering under my breath just like Marilla.

Years ago I watched the movie version starring Megan Follows as Anne, with my daughter, she must have been about 11 years old. I wanted her to fall in love with Anne and think she was just as amazing as I did. Of course, my daughter did not fall under the spell, as I had at her age. Unlike me, her media choices are plentiful and her preferences lean towards more modern stories and characters. At the time, I was a little sad, so I put Anne away for a while.

When I learned that CBC was creating this new version, I wondered what they could possibly bring to the table that would be new and interesting. It is a classic for a reason. However, after two episodes, I am completely hooked. This new series is based on the book, not following the book verbatim. There has been some liberties taken to fill in details and take the story downs side alleyways, exploring the depths.

What I realize now is that my connection to Anne, is only important to the story of my life and that’s OK. It doesn’t matter if my daughter, or anyone else cares for the tale as much as I do. I feel such a deep sense of empathy with this character and emotion stirs up my core. That passionate young thing I used to be is still in there. She has been resting, waiting for the right time to get back into the game.

The beginning of the story, when the Cuthberts decide to keep Anne, even though she has not behaved perfectly, that part gives me pause. As my own children are testing their wings and pushing against the boundaries of their home life, it is too easy to become wounded as parents. Instead of falling deeper in love with these teenagers, these small acts of rebellion seem as if they are trying to break the bonds they have with us. It feels like they love us less and we respond in turn.

I know it is just a story, but the best ones are drawn off real life. They are amplified, made more funny or tragic, but at the core they ring true. Otherwise, we don’t care for them. They seem off. So by drawing parallels between the story of Anne and my own life, I find comfort. It gives me a deeper faith that everything will be all right in the end.

The trick is to remember that my daughter is more like Anne than she will ever admit, just like I was. I have to put myself back into her shoes and remember how being that age was like being on a roller coaster. Emotional ecstatic highs and tragic lows. All those intense feelings are new and can be scary to experience fully. 

While day-to-day life is so much easier for me and my kids than it was for the characters in the story of Anne, I don’t think we manage our stress any better. They are simply different. When I see the crushing social pressures my kids face at school, I’m not sure I could have handled it at all. I would have buckled under the weight of it. 

So we are hitting pause. As a family, we are taking a year to experience life from different perspectives. We will dive into communities and stay away from the bureaucratic organizations of people. We will imagine where people once stood, as we follow in their footsteps.

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