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.


12 comments:

Blythe said...

I've written about my first love, an antiquated primer called The Magic Boat, on my blog. It turned me into a reader.

I think it's interesting how many of the "rules" the old books break. MCs don't show up right away, whole chapters are spent describing the landscape... Somehow the readers just kept falling in love with the books.

My daughter in an Anne fan. She and her friend used to dress up in their approximation of "Anne style"--even to go to school. She had a little illustrated cookbook with recipes mentioned in the book.

jpetroroy said...

Anne is my favorite book of all time, my favorite character of all time, my kindred spirit. I've read the first book at least six times, the others not as muh. But funnily enough, I remember skipping the first chapter the first time I ever read it. I just couldn't get into the nosiness of Rachel Lynde and I somehow knew I wasn't missing much ;)

nanmarino said...

Blythe, Just read your great post on The Magic Boat. Did your daughter's teacher know it was your favorite book? Love the idea of dressing up "Anne style" and an Anne of Green Gables illustrated cookbook is brilliant.
Jen -- aka my kindred spirit :) Six times! Have you read it as an adult too? I stopped reading after chapter three. Not sure if I should continue reading or if I should keep it as a wonderful childhood memory.

karenbschwartz said...

oh, me too, me too. We're kindred spirits (to quote Anne). My mom and I took a vacation in Prince Edward Island just to see where Anne would have lived.

Laura Pauling said...

The first time my daugher read this book, she read it 3 times in a row!

Stephanie J. Blake said...

I've got a secret....I've never read Anne of Green Gables! But, now I'm going to. Thanks Nan!

nanmarino said...

Karen. Hurray! Another kindred spirit! The picture posted above is from my trip to PEI. My husband and I spent a few days up there.
Laura, so glad your daughter is an Anne fan.
Stephanie, Enjoy the book! Let us know what you think!

MG Higgins said...

I'm glad Stephanie broke the confessional ice, because I haven't read it either. After your beautiful post, I will. Thank you!

nanmarino said...

Mel, I think you'll love it. (btw, there are so many classic books I haven't read. It's so hard to get to all of them.)

Sliding on the Edge said...

You've reminded me of one of my favorite times in life, reading Anne of Green Gables. When I read your post I had to go to my book shelf and pull my tattered copy out. I also remember the picture of myself holding that book. It was as if when I was only ten I wanted to record that moment so I could return to it years later.

Thanks, Nan

Anne (with an E, of course!) Mazer said...

How nice that we can all be in love with the same person and no one gets jealous! I also loved Anne - and totally sympathized with that "Anne with an E" thing. I felt as if I had lived through many of the scenes myself. Have any of you seen the movie with Megan Follows? Usually movies ruin books for me, but this one was PERFECT. It was filmed about 20 years ago. Loved this blog post!!

nanmarino said...

C Lee, Had no idea you were an Anne fan! It's so cool that you have your book and can remember holding it.
Anne "with an e", With your name, you were destined to love AoGG. I never saw the movie, but will check it out.
Thank you both for your comments.