When I was ten, my parents moved us out of the city and onto an old farm. The farm was owned by a man and his son, who had decided to sell the home and two acres of land, and keep the other thirty acres of fruit trees and grapes for themselves. The son lived with his dog, Mutsu, in trailer on the property and his father lived in a quiet house one town over.
My dad is an outdoors kind of guy, and had dreamed of this for years and I still remember the night we found out we won the house in a bidding war with another family. Needless to say, it took us some time to adjust. My mom remembers the first time she did laundry there, pouring the clothes onto the floor to sort through, and seeing little bugs skitter out of the clothes. My brother, who was six at the time, also casually told us he was seeing a ghost and had us all wondering if somehow we had been tricked into moving into the house on haunted hill. We had a cistern, cut the grass with a tractor and at the time we moved in (in the middle of the summer), no air conditioning. It was a big change, but one I grew to love and still remember with such fondness.
Mostly because, I thought we lived at Green Gables.
Soon after we moved in, one of my favourite adults, my mom’s friend Wende, had gifted me a beautiful edition of Anne of Green Gables for Christmas. My mom and I would sit in the room at the front of the house and read a chapter before bed each night. I fell in love with Anne; selfishly because she reminded me of myself. It was the first time I had seen a girl like me on paper; a girl with a wild imagination, who was a hopeless romantic (even as a kid) and who loved to read. I loved Anne something fierce, and I loved Green Gables.
The old house was full of charm, including a wrap-around porch, beautiful old floors, gorgeous old windows and an old farm kitchen. It was fit for Anne Shirley, so it was fit for me. I decorated my room as if it were hers (in the East Gable, of course). I had a twin, four-poster bed that I hung a floppy straw hat on the edge of, just like Anne would. I wore dresses I felt resembled what she would have worn. I read, and read, and read.
We lived there for four years, and moved back into the city right before I went to high school. The home was absolutely lovely, but required more upkeep (both physically and financially) than our young family could maintain at the time. My parents, brother and I still talk about the house, and our time there, as if it were almost a magical dream. I still drive past it every once in a while, and ended up getting married in that town last year!
And then this year, I decided to re-read Anne of Green Gables. And everything just came back. I’m a city girl now, whether I want to be one or not. I live on the floor of an old home in Toronto, take subways, streetcars and buses everywhere and have the smallest little patch of backyard that my landlord lets me sit in whenever I’d like. It’s definitely not two acres, but it’s something. I think with the city life, comes a city mentality. I’m a ball of stress most of the time, have a million things going at once, am constantly worried about the future and if I’m doing everything right, and rarely ever do I stop to enjoy that imagination I loved so much as a kid. Whenever I go to visit my parents, I breath a sigh of relief just leaving the city and driving back into the grassy fields I grew up surrounded by.
Reading about Anne again brought me back to myself. To the bits of myself I used to love – the idealistic, romantic in me that now seems to hide behind an endless list of things to do and worry about. and a job I can’t walk away from at the end of the day. It made me proud of my past, of my family, of my bookishness. I smiled as I read, page after page after page. It was the perfect thing, at the perfect time.
As soon as I finished, I ran to the bookstore on my lunch and bought Anne of Avonlea. A colleague recommended The Blue Castle by Montgomery, so I bought that too. I love knowing her backlist is extensive, and I have many more Anne adventures to read (which will be all new to me, as I only ever read the first book as a kid!).
I think perhaps sometimes we need to be reminded of ourselves, and Anne sure does that for me.
(Note: We’re going to ignore the fact that I’m on a tractor with a headgear in the picture above, but I wanted to provide a visual of the house, and this is the only picture I have with me at the moment!)