…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?