The world is a magical place for a child with an overactive imagination. I was never without an adventure, never without a story. But the world is also a lonely place for those who can’t figure out the implicit rules—who never quite understand the social cues they’ve missed while they were daydreaming.
I was an imp, Matilda, Max from Where the Wild Things Are. I was Rainbow Brite, Jem, every princess from every fairy tale, and I was the knights and princes too. She-ra, G.I. Joe, Punky Brewster… you name it, I was them all.
And I had a perfect older sister. She was the Beezus to my Ramona, the long-suffering Peter to my Farley Drexel.
She could follow rules, pay attention, sit still, wear a pair of tights for more than five minutes without ripping them. Walk down the sidewalk without skipping, twirling, tripping over a crack and splitting her knee open.
I could never quite scrub the dirt from beneath my nails. My hair was forever escaping ponytails and braids and tangling in tumbleweed snarls. My knees and elbows were layered in scabs, and my pockets were always full of pebbles, wilted flowers, and gritty grains of sandbox stowaways.
Reading was an escape. It was my means of losing myself and finding myself in a character’s life, in a character’s perspective. I was Amy March wishing for Laurie and a perfect nose; Meg Murry, getting in trouble for doing math my own way.
I found pieces of myself in so many different books—but it was L. M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables that burrowed deepest in my heart.
I was Anne Shirley—creating my own reality and scripting the story of my life. Misfit perfectly described me, even though I wished it didn’t—I never really wanted to conform either. I was another freckle-faced girl nodding along when Anne said, “But if you have big ideas, you have to use big words to express them, haven’t you?”
When Anne gives this speech,
“Isn’t it splendid to think of all the things there are to find out about? It just makes me feel glad to be alive–it’s such an interesting world. It wouldn’t be half so interesting if we know all about everything, would it? There’d be no scope for imagination then, would there? But am I talking too much? People are always telling me I do. Would you rather I didn’t talk? If you say so I’ll stop. I can STOP when I make up my mind to it, although it’s difficult.”
I wanted to know how L.M. Montgomery had reached inside my head and written down my thoughts. How she’d taken my essence and captured it on paper. I realized I’d been searching for a kindred spirit of my own and I’d found one on those pages.
Really, I just wanted a bosom buddy like Diana. I wanted a town like Avonlea—complete with curmudgeons and busybodies whom I could charm and beguile. I wanted a Gilbert Blythe—the first boy to make me swoon. Man, did I want a Gilbert Blythe.
Anne was a dreamer whose dreams got her in and out of scrapes—but it was what made her endearing, it was what made her Anne. It was what made me feel like I had permission to daydream, and daydream BIG. Like Anne says, “Because when you are imagining, you might as well imagine something worthwhile.”
Anne loved stories. She loved people. She loved meddling and writing.
I’m not sure I’ve ever outgrown her influence. I don’t ever want to. Like Anne, I was a school teacher, I am a writer, I have twins. Like Anne, I dream big and hard. I’m thrown into the ‘depths of despair’ when my expectations crumble or my ambitions are thwarted.
And, like Anne, I firmly believe: “It’s delightful when your imaginations come true, isn’t it?”