Tuesday, April 28

Well, I Was Gonna…


…write about how the world has lost a great romantic hero with the death of actor Jonathan Crombie, who died of a brain hemmorage last week. But, Lizzie, my Wrangler kindred spirit, beat me to it with her wonderful post yesterday. However, you know, I think I want to share why this young man’s death hit me as hard as it did anyway—after all there’s probably no such thing as too much Gilbert Blythe.

I fell in love with Gilbert when I was about ten years old as my mom read Lucy Maud Montgomery’s “Anne books” to us over the course of a summer. We camped a lot because camping was a great way to vacation without spending buckets of money and our entertainment was always Mother reading to us. She was a great reader because she did all the voices and brought the books to life. Mom would gather the four us (sisters PJ and Kate, me, and little brother Bud) each evening to read to us by lantern and campfire light. We all learned to love books during those summer nights as Mom drew us into other worlds. We joined the March sisters in Little Women, Little Men, and Alcott’s other delicious stories of post-Civil War Concord; the Ingalls family on the prairie; Gene Stratton Porter’s naturalists in her amazing stories of the Limberlost; and of course, Anne Shirley and her friends in Avonlea. 

Even as a little girl, from the very beginning of the Anne stories—in Anne of Green Gables—I couldn’t figure out why Anne wasn’t falling in madly love with Gilbert Blythe. I certainly was! He was perfect—kind and smart and funny and handsome. Here’s the amazing part—the picture of Gilbert that was in my head for thirty years came to life when I first watched the CBC production of Anne of Green Gables on PBS. Jonathan Crombie was my Gilbert Blythe.

Maybe that says something for the casting finess of the creators of the series, but I like to believe it says even more about L.M. Montgomery’s ability to bring characters to life for a little ten-year-old girl. Montgomery’s storytelling ability brought Avonlea and all its citizens to life for me, allowing me to daydream about wandering the shores of Prince Edward Island, sitting on the porch of Green Gables to chat with Marilla and Anne and Rachel Lynde, and of course, moonlit carriage rides with Gilbert Blythe.

Gilbert was the high-water mark for my dream man for so many years, and when I finally found the forever kind of love, it was with my own Gilbert Blythe—a smart, handsome, funny, gentle man. Frankly, although I enjoyed my childhood vacations camping along the shores of Lake Michigan, I confess I’m not much of a camper anymore. Nowadays, I’m camping if there’s no room service in my hotel, but I loved hearing Mom read aloud to us and I’m eternally grateful to her for bringing Gilbert Blythe into my young romantic heart.

Talk to me—are there stories from your childhood that are still with you, characters who are still in your heart?

6 comments:

  1. They are still there, still keeping their places warm. The other night, after writing about Gilbert, I went back and read the last chapters of Understood Betsy just to get some of that comfort. I'll watch the Anne movies again, but not yet.

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    1. I'm so with you, Lizzie--not quite ready to watch the Anne series again--not yet. And yes to Dorothy Canfield Fisher! I loved Understood Betsy--so sweet and poignant. I've never read her adult novels though... have you?

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    2. I didn't even know she'd written any--guess I'd better be checking those out.

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  2. I always loved it when my mom would read to me, and I love reading to bebe now. Mom read the Ramona books and Little House books and some Judy Blume, but I think my absolute favorite (still) is Matilda.

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    1. I still love to be read to and to read aloud--I do it to poor Husband all the time. Ramona and Matilda and Judy Blume all came after my childhood, you little whippersnapper you, but I read Ramona with my kid. Good books!

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  3. Growing up, a product of the 70's and my favorites were the Outsiders. Ohh, how I loved Ponyboy and Johnny, and Soda Pop, Darrell, Dally...*heavy sigh*

    Are you still enjoying Harry? My 13 year-old nephew is reading them now too. And I told him I was jealous because you only get to read them for the first time once. And we had to wait for each one--terminally long, it seemed. And we'd go to midnight release parties at Barnes and Noble to get our copies. So, I'm a little jealous that you get to read them for the first time :) without delay.

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