05 December 2009

Elizabeth of Brick Apartments

I've spent the last few days reading my dear old Anne of Green Gables books by L. M. Montgomery.  Actually, I've been reading the text online, thanks to the efforts of Project Gutenberg, which posts free texts on the internet.  My real books are safely ensconced in my parents' home.

I read these when I was young, when I was more interested in the character of Anne and the romantic plot then.  But, of late, I've been thinking more about what happens after Anne gets married, as that's where I am in my life now.  Romance aside, I am much more interested in how she composes herself as a mother - particularly a young mother of young children.

Recently, I came across the movies, made in the 1980s by Sullivan Entertainment and was pleased to know that there were not only the first and second episodes, which were based on the Montgomery books, but a third movie as well.  The second movie, which I had seen when I was younger, leaves off just at the good part, as I see it now - right before Anne & Gilbert get hitched.  Eagerly, I watched the beginning credits of the "Continuing Story," but noticed that the plot seemed unfamiliar.  Anne and Gilbert weren't yet married and it had been five years, and there was some nonsense about moving to a large city, which I didn't recall.  And then Marilla is already dead, and Gilbert goes off to war, and another character makes advances at Anne and Anne goes to Europe to find Gilbert and there's a mushy love scene and...  bleck.  It left a nasty Hollywood taste in my mouth - apparently the producers felt that Ms. Montgomery's story was not adequate or exciting enough to snare viewers' attention.  But they missed the point entirely.   Needless to say, I didn't watch the movie, and promptly disposed of it.

Disappointed, I let the matter lie until the other day, when I came across an online text of Anne of Green Gables.  Eagerly, I thirstily read... and read... and read.

If you've not read the books, I shan't repeat them here, but will only say that they are delightful, and encourage you to read them, whether your are a young girl or an older gentleman.  There is much about human nature in them, and, being written over 100 years ago (the first book published in 1908), are wonderful historical sketches as well.

I was, as mentioned above, most eager to see how Anne dealt with being a young mother of young children, having two little ones myself.  I have been struggling with being too grumpy and "ruley," that is to say, too strict, especially with my three year-old.  So I wanted to see how Anne dealt with that time in her life.

I read to the point where her first son is born, and the family then moves into a new home (which is the end of one book, Anne's House of Dreams).  I excitedly took up the next book, only to find that it started six years later.  Six years!!  Those were precisely the years that I wanted!!  Nevertheless, I plodded on and finished Anne of Ingleside, and was surprisingly pleased at some of the tidbits of advice that I gleaned.

Most importantly, I appreciated how much God is present in the pages of the story.  God is simply a matter of fact, an over-arching theme of everyday life. It was refreshing to see the importance of being an upright person and saying your prayers (without undue stress on what prayers you were saying, exactly).  I additionally liked how having a goodly character was lauded over "appearing" to do the right thing - I often think about how in my own life, appearances are most important - that is, what people think often drives my actions rather than what I think is best and right.  So this was emboldening to me - I shook off some of the accumulated layers of the ill effects of our current culture to reveal my own wonderful self beneath.

Another interesting point was that Anne had a cook.  Who was also a housekeeper.  And Anne had a garden and a house.  As I struggle with keeping our home clean, small as it may be, I realise that one of my biggest enemies is "stuff" - all of the accumulated things that we are sold every day.  But the other enemy is a cultural attitude that as a mother, I must, singly and alone, do all of the "womanly duties" myself - cook, clean, do laundry, go grocery shopping, mop, sweep, dust, diaper babies, sweep some more, read stories, heal hurts, feed the family, sweep again - with no help.  Where's my cook?  How wonderful to have some companionship and another adult to speak with and share the attention of the children.


But the most salient point that I have decided to incorporate into our daily lives is to spend time outside.  LOTS of time.  And to read stories.  And little to no time watching tv.  My poor dears have been inside for the last week, as our car was disabled in an accident and it's been too cold (for me) to get out.  But winter hasn't even started yet, and so my goal today is to get out.

At the expense of the dishes.

Oh, well, we can't have it all.

1 comment:

Industrioushead said...

Hi Liz,

I really relate to the isolation you feel, with two small children and a home to take care of. When my kids were young, back in the 80s (they're 27 and 28 now!), I was able to be a stay at home mom, but all the other moms in my neighborhood had big careers and were working. I would fantasize about having other moms with whom I could share house work with. We would all work together cleaning each others' homes and then have lunch or coffee together afterwords.

My mom has told me that when I was a kid, now this in the 50s and 60s, all the neighborhood mothers got together and started a little preschool. The kids would all be at one moms house for the afternoon and the other moms would would have the time off. So, during the week, as a mom, you would have four afternoons off! I have good memories of being at friends houses and making a lot crafty stuff and eating snacks.

At the same time my best memories are of being with my kids, two girls like you, and being outside on a walk, or at the park with at take along lunch.

Take care,