The love story of Anne Shirley and Gilbert Blythe told through the Anne of Green Gables series by Lucy Maud Montgomery is one of my all-time favorites. Gilbert’s steadfast affection and then sacrificial love for Anne is a beautiful thing in both it’s simplicity and faith. Sure he has his weak moments, but overall the reader understands that he wants what’s best for Anne even if it’s not him and that’s downright swoon-worthy.
My daughter, E, was assigned Anne of Green Gables as a 7th grade homeschool project and she was not thrilled. She likes distopians, SF, and fantasy. A book based in an earlier time-period that doesn’t involve steampunk was not likely to spark her interest and it didn’t. I was disappointed because of the similarities between my unique, imaginative, and willful daughter and Anne. I thought for sure she’d see herself in the main character, but I should have known better. My daughter is not keen on having her flaws reflected back at her from media of any sort. Once she realized that Tinker Bell exhibited her exact same temper and tendency to over-react she quit her. Like, that day. She was O.V.E.R. the Disney Fairies. Completely.
Today E came into my office to ask me for help on the paper she is writing on Anne. She wanted me to help her with theme. It’s one of her areas of struggle. We started talking about what Anne was like, what she wanted most, and how her imagination and temper keep her from getting it. We talked about the different ways Marilla and Mathew love Anne and how that love affects both her and them. But E was adamantly against discussing Gilbert in any way other than her appreciation of Anne’s ability to hold a grudge. My girl is not into romance. This is a good thing since she’s 12. But I was surprised with her flair for the dramatic that she also rejects any sentimentality and Romance with the big R.
What’s Romance with the big R? That feeling of mystique, glamour, and excitement that can be found in a Gothic novel, or your Aunt Betty’s description of that high school dance she went to in ’57. Everything’s covered in fairy dust or the filmy mist of nostalgia. It’s a kind of sentimentality that’s not sensible, but sure is fun.
Marilla warns Anne about this in what is one of my favorite quotes from the Anne of Green gables movie and it’s sequel (I only consider one and two as actual Anne movies. I saw the third. The less said about that one the better.) “You have tricked something into that imagination of yours that you call romance. Have you forgotten how he gave up Avonlea school for you so that you could stay here with me. He picked you up everyday in his carriage so that you could study your courses together. Don’t toss it away Anne for some ridiculous ideal that doesn’t exist.”
And in the book, Anne of the Island, Anne’s friend Phil is even harder on her when the quote is hers “You don’t know love when you see it. You’ve tricked something out with your imagination that you think love, and you expect the real thing to look like that. There, that’s the first sensible thing I’ve ever said in my life. I wonder how I managed it?” (Side note- I love Phil. One of the best supporting characters ever written.)
One of the dangers of reading romantic fiction is getting caught up in the idea that love is like fiction with it’s adventure, sweeping declarations, amazing highs, and deepest lows. It makes you think “I want a love like that.” But real love, the best kind, is far quieter. Whether it sneaks up on you over time or hits you over the head on your second date – it’s a slower pace, a steadier march from infatuation to commitment to the kind of steadfast beauty an old couple exudes when they look at each other and you can see that bond they have.
Love stories as roller-coaster rides make for great fiction, but they rip you apart emotionally and rarely end well. The highs are never worth the lows. Dramatic tension in a novel is absolutely necessary. Probably best not to aim for it in love.
My own path to love early-on was one big roller-coaster. It was the Behemoth.
I became addicted to the drama. I tricked myself into believing that real love meant suffering because when it was good, it was so good, it fed my soul in a way nothing else ever had. But it never lasted. Every high was chased by a devastating low. One day I’d finally had enough and I stepped off the coaster. After spending some time learning a few hard truths about myself I prayed for God to take over. If He wanted me to marry, He was going to have to find the guy Himself. Well, He did. God sent me my own version of Gilbert. My husband is one of the most steadfast, loving, and patient human beings on the planet. I didn’t make it easy on him since I had some stuff I was still working through, but he showed me in everything he did, large and small, that his faithfulness wasn’t for the moment, it was for eternity.
In the amusement ride analogy the four months it took me to realize this was love was a ride on ‘Soarin. A few months later he proposed and we’ve been married 17 years as of a week from today. The roller coaster is long gone and I don’t miss it a bit. 🙂
So my lovely readers I suggest aiming for a love like that, one that’s constant. All that drama looks good in a BBC mini-series or a novel, but in real life, it just gives you heartburn.