I first met Anne Shirley when I was around 13. I quickly fell in love with the spunky, outspoken, and imaginative orphan. When first you meet Anne, she’s waiting at the train station for her new family. She’s imagined how it will be, how they will love her, how they will accept her into their lives and hearts and how she will finally have a home.
If you’ve read Anne of Green Gables, you know it wasn’t as easy as that. The Cuthberts, Matthew and Marilla, had sent away for a boy orphan, someone to help around the farm and take some work away from Matthew. But something happened, and the orphanage sent a girl instead. Once Anne arrives at the farm, Marilla feels determined to send the girl back. She wants a boy, and though she’s not heartless (she provides a good meal and clean bed for Anne), she brooks no arguments. Yet without saying too much, Matthew convinces his sister Marilla to keep the girl and give her a chance. And Marilla gets a glimpse into the life Anne will lead if she’s forced to live with someone else. The story of Matthew’s love for Anne is sweet and told in very few words. He falls in love with her almost instantly and the few times he disagrees with Marilla (puffed sleeves, anyone?) usually ends with Anne in a rhapsody of joy.
Marilla’s love, though, is a different kind of love. She’s an old woman and set in her ways. She’s not heartless or mean, but she’s not open like Anne. It takes a long time for Anne to squirrel her way into Marilla’s heart, but when she does, that love makes itself known in other ways. Anne never worries about food, she’s not beaten or forced to watch half a dozen small children. And because of Marilla, Anne meets Diana Barry, and they quickly become bosom friends. By the end of the first book, you can see Marilla’s love for Anne. It’s not effusive; instead, it’s quiet and steady. And if you read the complete series, Marilla’s love only grows and deepens. It’s dependable and Anne never has to worry that she will lose Marilla’s love.
When I was a kid, I didn’t always have a happy life. I wasn’t an orphan, but I experienced some bad things. Seeing the pure love of Marilla, Matthew, and Anne was a glimpse into a better life, one I could have once I grew up myself. Now I am an adult. I’ve adopted no orphans, and I’m not even much like Anne Shirley. But I’ve never forgotten the spirited orphan (I even gave one of my children the middle name of Anne, yes, with an E) and she will live on in my heart forever. I’ve read some of the books to my girls and watched Anne of Green Gables with them. The author, L.M. Montgomery, didn’t have the happiest life herself when growing up, so I especially love that she dreamed up this orphan and gave her everything she could want: two people who would love her no matter what. After all, isn’t that what any of us wants? Someone to love us?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Carol Starkley lives with her husband, three daughters, and numerous pets. She likes to read, write, bake, and dabble with the clarinet. She also infrequently blogs.