22 January 2013

A Part of All That I Have Met

I am a part of all that I have met;
Yet all experience is an arch wherethrough
Gleams that untravelled world, whose margin fades
For ever and for ever when I move.
"Ulysses", Tennyson

There is a quote by L.M. Montgomery, author of Anne of Green Gables, that always made a huge amount of sense to me.  When asked if Anne were based upon a real person, she said that although she had invented Anne, it felt like a lie to say so because as soon as she did, she was sure that she would be standing behind her because she felt so real.

It's the only way I can possibly explain to you the very real relationship I feel with Anne, Jo, Mary and Elizabeth.

Forgive me for a moment while I swoon over books.  This is not my normal philosophical fare - this is pure and total indulgence in what I love.  You see, I didn't have a sister until I was twelve.  Aside from my own mother, there aren't many female influences in my life that mattered more to me than these four, and, later on, their creators as well.

It all started with Anne.

And really, it didn't start with the book.  It started with the movie.  I was obsessed with it.  And when I found out there was a book, I would go to bed every night with my mother's copy of it clutched in my hands.  You see. . . I was only about four at the time.  I couldn't actually read it on my own yet.  But I wanted to.  I still think that Anne was what drove me into reading as soon as I did.  I wanted to read because I wanted to read her.  And it was so, so rewarding.  From Anne I learned that every problem has an imaginative and entertaining solution.  I learned that I could conquer any situation if I had enough nerve.  I learned that it was good to dream and to hope for wonderful things for myself, but that it was also important to be involved in my own life enough to make things happen.  Good things don't come to those who wait - good things come to those who care enough about their life to work for it.  From Anne I learned that the world is a beautiful place if you allow it to be.  I learned that the world is my oyster.

After Anne came Jo.  Little Women was the first beautiful book I ever owned.  For my birthday, or was it Christmas?, the year I turned nine I saw the most beautiful cloth-bound copy of Little Women at the bookstore.  It had a ribbon in it and color pictures.  I read that book to pieces.  It was like reading my own existence.  I found myself sitting somewhere in the middle of Jo and Amy - I was never the tom boy that Jo was.  I loved dressing up and enjoyed pretty things, for example - but most of the time I lived with Jo.  She had a temper she wanted to contain but couldn't.  She had a massive love of life and was placed in a time that really wasn't ready for her.  She wanted a life that was more than most everyone around her would have been satisfied with.  The older I got, the more I felt like Jo was written exactly for me.  Our desires and ambitions were so similar.  We are passionate people who live enthusiastically and don't ever intend to stop, even when it makes the world a little uncomfortable.  From Jo I learned to be happy with myself.

Next came Mary.  She's a little different than the others.  She's a nasty little thing - stubborn to a fault and unkind to others, but the way I saw it she was just misunderstood.  She had been thrown into rotten circumstances and came from a place where she wasn't really cared for.  Who could blame her?  From Mary (and later from Emma) I learned that I could overcome my flaws.  I knew that I was kind of hard to be around sometimes.  I had worked out how I wanted things to be with my life, and sometimes manipulated my friends into fitting that vision - which (rightfully) put them off me.  The word "bossy" was often attached to my name.  Only I didn't like that.  What kid does?  Mary was my guide.  I figured with the right amount of symbolic gardening (my attempts at literal gardening were utter disasters) then I, too, could be someone people would actually want to be around.  I could temper my passionate side and be a good person.

I wasn't raised on Elizabeth.  I didn't really discover her until high school.  And while I enjoyed her, it felt so very cliche to love her since everyone else in the world worshiped her, or seemed to.  (Not that my other literary sister friends aren't cliche. . . ignore that.)  But she was impossible to resist.  It was the banter.  The complete candor about the world and the general sense of snark about everything.  Nothing was safe.  The world seemed built for Lizzie's enjoyment alone, and everyone in it was on a stage where Lizzie sat in the top box like Statler.  I wanted to be the Waldorf to her Statler.  I wanted to be that funny.  To find someone that could handle it and play back.  (Heck, I still want that.)  And although I still find myself relating more to Emma in the long haul (because she is so openly and recognizably flawed but has good intentions), I want to be Lizzie.  I want to be that comfortable with myself.  (And, let's be real, I want to wear the dress.  And go to the ball.  And say "make haste!"  Oh, and own Pemberly.  'Cause it's pretty.

I don't know that I have some kind of overall point to this beyond my feeble attempts to say "I LOVE BOOKS!" in a way that isn't so "kid in a candy store".  If I were to move toward internal philosophy, I would say that these four women/girls are very much so a part of the "nurturing" that enhanced my "nature" as I've grown up.  Their creators as well.  L.M. Montgomery in particular, but all of the women who penned these marvelous characters were independent, strong, forward thinking individuals who fought for their happiness and their place in the world.  Most of them suffered from one form of depression or another.  All of them were religious in some way.  I can't wait to meet them.  I can't wait to thank them for giving me friends that made me not feel so alone, both real and imagined.  It makes this whole "independent woman" thing so much easier to forge through.

1 comment:

A. B. said...

Oh I loved this. A little glimpse into your soul. It is so beautiful. Thank you for sharing. Isn't good literature a marvelous thing? Storytelling is truly a gift from God. Being a good writer is a gift too and you have a gift for the latter I know for a fact. You should write a book, dearest. It would be marvelous. I love you and I'm glad I know you. Also, I LOVED Little Women too but discovered it in college right after I got married and read it a few times. Margaret was me. And I still love her for helping me out too :)