Saturday, February 6, 2010
The First Time I Fell In Love...
I was ten.
Oh sure, there were times before that when I thought it was the real thing. There was that flirtation in kindergarten with a character named Sam (but he was such a fussy eater). And there were a few brief dalliances in second and third grade. To be honest, I hardly remember their names.
Don't think for a moment that my tender age meant it wouldn't last forever. Years later (okay, let's be honest and say decades later) I still think about it. The real thing happened in fourth grade. It was the first time I ever fell in love... with a book (and a book character).
Lucy Maud Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables was my first love.
It happened fast, before Anne Shirley walked on the roof, or met her best friend, Diana, or got called "carrots" by Gilbert Bylthe. The moment she said the words "Anne with an e" and wished her name was Cordelia, I was hooked. It seems she had me at hello. (btw, I know I'm not the only one. If you love this book, I bet you fell for it at the "Anne with an e" part too.)
I remember other moments: how she thought it would be perfectly fine to spend a moonlit night sleeping in a cherry tree and how thrilled she was to drive under a canopy of flowering trees and how she gave everything a better name (I still rename things. I'm not sure if I picked it up from this story or if it's something Anne and I always had in common).
I only read the book once. It never occurred to me to read it again, and I never moved on to the rest of the Anne books either. In my ten-year-old mind, this was a perfect moment. Why ruin it with repetition and destroy a wonderful memory?
But yesterday, I was in a perfect moment/memory destroying mood. I wondered if the decades blurred the imperfections or if I'd fall in love all over again. So for the first time since I was ten, I read the first three chapters.
Here's what I learned:
Anne Shirley doesn't even appear in chapter one. (Hmm. So does the first chapter build suspense for the big meeting or should Lucy M. Montgomery have moved into the action faster?). The first sentence is 137 words long, not exactly the short, attention-grabbing hook we look for nowadays. Of course, the book is over a hundred years old. Perhaps in 1908, lengthy opening sentences were the norm. But that first line still grabbed me. In those scant 137 words, I knew all about the neighbor, Rachel Lynde (aka, the nosiest person in town).
And Anne? When she finally shows up in chapter two, she steals my heart all over again. I was amazed at how much I remembered. As soon as we meet her, she talks about that wild cherry tree: "...it would be lovely to sleep in a wild cherry-tree all white with bloom in the moonshine, don't you think?" And she calls the "the long canopy of snowy fragrant blooms" the first thing she ever saw "that couldn't be improved upon by imagination" and renames Barry's Pond the "lake of shining waters". And of course, she talks about her name "Anne with an e" (which I agree is so much more 'distinguished' than Ann.)
I wish I could congratulate myself for having extraordinary powers of retention. The truth is that my mind is often sieve-like. Remarkably important pieces of information often pass through my brain, unnoticed by my memory. But Anne of Green Gables isn't locked into my mind. It's etched into my heart. And when something touches your heart, you remember.