Dear friends, old and new
It’s cycled around to the first day of the month again and I am still in this wonderful space where I’m waiting to hear back from publishers. It’s as if I am poised, teetering, on the edge of so much possibility and it’s not such a bad place to be. It’s statistically likely that I will need to pick myself up from disappointment, but that knowledge still loiters around the corner, so for now let’s bounce onward – by going backward! Back to our younger selves.
I’ve been listening to a lot of online wisdom lately. Many festivals and workshops have gone digital for the obvious (hint Covid..well that 19 is misleading, huh?) reasons, and I’ve been able to listen to talks given in NSW in the morning and Queensland in the afternoon, all without leaving my home in WA. It’s a silver lining to what is a tough time for many. These talks, and several social media chats I’ve had recently, have reminded me what a shortcut to friendship-land it can be when you find someone who liked the same books as you as a child.
If you’re a parent, perhaps, like me, you’ve been befuddled by the reading habits of your children. My daughter often has multiple books on the go at once, a concept that nearly makes me break out in hives. Is it her early exposure to modern tech that allows her to keep several storylines running in her head at once? Or is that something other people in older generations could do too – just not me? Meanwhile, my son prefers to read the same books over and over. This worried me for a while, until I thought about how many times I read my favourite series when I was younger. Those of you who know me well, or knew me way back when, will immediately know I’m referring to that series so many of us bookish types found comfort in: Anne of Green Gables.
My mother worked in the library at my primary school, and I can still remember the sage green, hard-backed copy of Anne that I first discovered there. It had black and white photos in it of a movie version that I have never seen. I’ve never seen that edition since. I loved that book. I read it and the entire series over and over again. I caused my moustachioed Grade Four teacher some concern when he found me weeping in class over Matthew’s death…which taught me not to read books under the desk…and I still remember that Anne’s son (Walter)’s dog howled when he died, away at the front. Luckily, I was at home for that one. But, most of all, I remember that Anne loved words and names and making happiness out of sadness. Something little me liked too. Of course, it didn’t hurt that Gilbert was in there as well. The kind of hero I could respect. He liked smart, loud Anne , something that girls of my generation, and perhaps my particular persuasion, needed to hear.
There were other books too, many of them, but none ever took the place of the Anne series in my heart. I haven’t read them for ages, I think because I almost know them too well and there are no surprises left. But they have left an imprint on my soul, so much so that when another claims a similar love, my warm feeling of Hello! A kindred spirit! has to fight with an instinctual bristling of What? No! Excuse me, I’m sure you didn’t love Anne like I loved Anne! Oh, you did?!
And, of course, that is the thing about books. They belong to no one, not even the author really. They arrive to patch us up or fill us up or inspire us. And at the same time, they may be patching up or filling up millions of other people. It’s humbling and delightful.
If you have time and inclination, tell me about the books that made you.