We all have books that are “old favorites,” dog-eared paperback volumes we pull off the shelf when we need a bit of comfort or an easy read. We find something safe and reassuring in those crusty old paperbacks, the edges of their pages yellowing from age. Even the cracked back of their broken bindings give us a sense of visiting an old friend.
Last night, we were over at my mother’s house for dinner, and then fell into the comfortable habit of flopping around on the living room furniture with reading material in hand. My husband had thought to bring a book. I had to peruse the bookshelf in the den (quite a few of my books haven’t made it to my house yet, despite the fact that I’ve been married for over two years).
I’d had a sudden urge a few days ago to reread Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery. Really, any L.M.M. book will do for me in a pinch; I own all the books and short story collections ever published by Montgomery. But for some reason, when I go to grab a book from that collection, I always start with Anne.
I’m not sure why.
I was introduced to Anne of Green Gables in fourth grade. My then-best friend had just started reading the series and told me I “had to read it.” I believe she got me my first copy of the book for Christmas. I was immediately hooked. My best friend and I were so immersed in the stories that we started calling each other “Anne” and “Diana” after the two best friends in the book (I was “Diana” incidentally). Something about Anne Shirley’s sprees of imagination, her ability to see beauty in everyday things, spoke to me even as a ten-year-old.
Our friendship tapered off in middle school and ceased to exist by the time we got to high school. But Anne never deserted me. I got into the habit of re-reading the Green Gables series every couple of years. As I grew as a writer, I often thought of how such a truly simple story could be so beautiful and inspire so much imagination on my part.
I have other books, “old friends”, I turn to with semi-regularity. I’ve read Gone With The Wind at least fourteen times. I read Lord of the Rings at least once every four years or so. Same goes with John Jakes’ North and South trilogy. And I’ve been known to crack open Harry Potter every now and then.
But none of those books, even Gone With The Wind, which remains my absolute favorite, come quite as close as Anne of Green Gables, etc., in providing simple friendship. I grew up with Anne, so to speak. She’s a dear old friend, one who doesn’t make absurd demands on my time and expects nothing but a little imagination from me.