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Bosom Friends and Kindred Spirits

Soon after our daughter Anne was born, we threw a Christening party at home and I went slightly crazy. The night before, I stayed up late baking cupcakes. They sat there, frosted but undecorated, until inspiration struck. I piped a single letter onto each cupcake on the tray to spell: “It had to be Anne with an ‘e.’” I have few pictures of that bleary joyful day, and none of the cupcakes. But Anne’s name DID have to be Anne with an “e,” because of Anne of Green Gables.

Anne is one of the brightest, sparkiest, most imaginative, and smartest heroines ever created. She follows her heart. She speaks her mind. She’s a good and generous friend (if slightly impulsive). She reads. She’s loyal and loving, sometimes naughty—but great at apologies. Marilla Cuthbert and her brother Matthew take her in as a friendless orphan, but I think it’s Anne who makes their house, Green Gables, a home at last. Who wouldn’t want a daughter like her?

L.M. Montgomery’s books thrilled me when I was a kid, but I haven’t read them in many years. When my daughter turned five recently, her Aunt Corinna and Uncle Ian sent her a young reader’s edition of Anne of Green Gables. We didn’t put the book down until we had read every page. Anne was spellbound. Then we got out the unabridged version and turned to page one.

We are on Chapter 13: The Delights of Anticipation. In this chapter Anne, looking forward to her first picnic and first taste of ice cream, says, “Oh, Marilla, looking forward to things is half the pleasure of them. You mayn’t get the things themselves; but nothing can prevent you having the fun of looking forward to them. Mrs. Lynde says, ‘Blessed are they who expect nothing for they shall not be disappointed.’ But I think it would be worse to expect nothing than to be disappointed.”

I could not agree more, and as we read, I realize what a huge influence Anne Shirley has been on my life and vocabulary. It’s great fun to initiate Anne into the flowery language of these books. Five-year-olds have rich inner lives, and their play is highly imaginative, so when Anne and her friend Diana create their own world out in the woods, imagining that some old stumps and planks are a house, that broken shards are china plates, that places with prosaic names like “Barry’s Pond” are instead “The Lake of Shining Waters,” it doesn’t sound at all silly to my Anne. Instead, it inspires her.

Anne has learned a lot from Anne Shirley so far: how to recognize a “kindred spirit,” and what a “bosom friend” is; the difference between swearing allegiance to a friend and the kind of swearing that would get you in trouble with your teacher; what being drunk is, and to avoid currant wine. She is also imagining a very different world than her own, where children both work harder and run freer than she does. There is so much scope for the imagination in a place like Avonlea. I can’t wait to take Anne back there at bedtime tonight.


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