Wow I didn’t see that coming. We were finishing the last few chapters of Anne of Green Gables, in time for our book club meeting with fellow homeschool friends. The main character, Anne, has just passed the entrance exam to Queen’s College. She has ranked 1st out of 200 students who tested. My voice cracked and started to waver. I was in tears. Natalie asked from her bed “Mama, why are you crying?” “Because Natalie she was once an orphan girl with a broken heart and now look at her!” “But Mama it’s just a fictional book.” Just then Jacob crawled out of bed, came over to where I was sitting in the hallway and said “Mama, I’ll finish the chapter for you.” Sweet, sweet boy…..he’s done that before…..standing in for me when my voice is too shaky to continue. I vividly remember him doing that once in another book, when we read about a girl whose mother had died and I was thinking of our Martha….and then also once when we passed a really horrific motorcycle/car accident at the intersection of Aviation and Rosecrans Blvd. I started to pray for the injured people and their families that would soon be receiving word, but I got all choked up and started to cry, imagining myself at the receiving end of such a call. Jacob carried on my prayer out loud. And here now again he was offering to carry on with the last remaining paragraphs of Chapter 33. Natalie wanted to help finish reading the chapter too. What a delight to have two eager and skilled readers. So I let Natalie read one paragraph and Jacob read the other.
They jumped back in their beds and asked for one more chapter. “Pleeeeeeease Mama, pleeeeeeeeease. Just one more chapter.” “Okay” I relented. But truly delighted beyond measure that my children love books so much. The opening sentence of Chapter 34 was not a promising one if I hoped to be tear-free:
“The next three weeks were busy ones at Green Gables, for Anne was getting ready to go to Queen’s.”
Oh no, we were in for some trouble. I was imagining the day that these two kiddos of mine would be grown and off on their adult lives. Of course I am happy and excited for that day. Thrilled to fulfill my role of preparing them for adulthood.
Marilla begins to cry as Anne is reciting a poem.
“I declare, my recitation has made you cry, Marilla…..Now I call that a positive triumph.”
“No, I wasn’t crying over your piece…..I just couldn’t help thinking of the little girl you used to be, Anne. And I was wishing you could have stayed a little girl, even with all your queer ways. You’ve grown up now and you’re going away; and you look so tall and stylish and so-so-different altogether in that dress- as if you didn’t belong in Avonlea at all- and I just got lonesome thinking of it all over.”
“Marilla!” Anne sat down on Marilla’s gingham lap, took Marilla’s lined face between her hands, and looked gravely and tenderly into Marilla’s eyes. “I’m not a bit changed- not really. I’m only just pruned down and branched out. The real me- back here- is just the same. It won’t make a bit of difference where I go or how much I change outwardly; at heart I shall always be your little Anne, who will love you and Matthew and dear Green Gables more and better every day of her life.”
Okay by then I was crying. Just last week when we celebrated Jacob’s 8th birthday at Knott’s Berry Farm, Steve and I were walking hand-in-hand alongside the roller coasters commenting to each other that within 10 years he will be on his way, moving out to adulthood and a college life somewhere. Next year, when Jacob turns 9, will mark the half-way point we have as parents before that next big chapter of his solely independent life. Wow. The time is going to fly. So Steve and I were intentionally soaking it in- the afternoon fun of being with our roller-coaster-loving and thrill-seeking boy. His sticky fingers as he was devouring a fully-loaded funnel cake. And now here I was sitting on the carpet in our hallway, my voice echoing off the walls as I read these words to our kiddos tucked comfortably in their beds. Natalie in her room. Jacob in his room. These words departing my mouth and finding their way to their eager ears.
But picturing Anne plopping herself on Marilla’s lap, gently grasping Marilla’s face between her hands…..oh that was the end of me. I couldn’t continue. I could picture myself in Marilla’s shoes…..hoping/wishing for the days long gone…..of Natalie sitting on my lap promising me she was the very same little girl as she had once been. I got choked up. I announced that it was time to go to bed. This chapter was just going to get sadder- with Anne needing to say her goodbyes to everyone in Avonlea.
Jacob begged me to continue. “Please, please may I appeal?” he asked as his lower lip quivered and his eyes brimmed with tears. He didn’t want to end on a sad note. He wanted the story to be all happy again. He didn’t want to imagine himself growing up and moving on. He begged for me to continue. He gave me all kinds of reasons why it would be good to continue: 1) we could end on a happier note, 2) we would have less to read tomorrow to be caught up, 3) they were both wide awake and eager to hear more, 4) they would have more time tomorrow to do more math. I told him that on the flip side, it might mean that he and his sister would be cranky-pants in the morning for having had less sleep. He assured me that would not be the case. Well, I took a risk and hoped that he indeed would be right; so that I wouldn’t have to live to regret this decision tomorrow.
I walked over to Natalie’s room to ask her if she too was interested in hearing the rest of the chapter. Natalie had her back to the door. She muffled some kind of answer. I didn’t hear. I walked in closer to her. “Natalie would you like me to keep reading?” “Sure” she mumbled half-heartedly without any eye contact. What was going on? This was uncharacteristic behavior of hers. I walked closer and peeked over her shoulder. Instantly I could see emotion all over her face. I asked her what was the matter. And then the floodgates opened. She lost it. Totally lost it. There was a torrential downpour of tears and she was an inconsolable crying mess. Oh my. Oh my. Jacob jumped out of his bed and came running down the hall. “What’s the matter? Natalie what’s the matter” he asked with intense concern. She couldn’t get a word out- she was crying so hard. Her face was red and wet and there we stood trying to figure out if she was crying because of the story or something else. I was able to hear “he won’t be able to play soccer with me anymore when he”….and then I just heard a blubbering mass of tears. But Jacob heard it. His voice trembled and he said “Mama, she’s crying for the day when I move out to college.” I looked at her for a confirmatory nod. And there it was. Yes. She was crying her heart out at the thought of Jacob one day moving out of our home. She would be left all alone. He would not be here to play soccer with her anymore.
Even as I type this, my eyes spill over with tears. Oh how blessed and grateful I am that the two of them love each other so deeply. People said that when they were born less than two years apart, they would develop a deep, deep bond between the two of them. Indeed, tonight I saw signs of that. Here was my beloved Natalie crying her heart out that in 10 years her best friend brother would not be here to play soccer with. As I watched Jacob trying not to crack, trying his best to hold his emotions and not let his lips quiver, I could see in his eyes that he too dreaded that day. It sounded too painful to him to be moving out, leaving his sister behind.
I write all of this because I think it will be glorious to read 10 years from now. The beauty of the extent of their best-friend relationship. I pray that however painful that day may be, I pray Lord that you will continue to knit their hearts together so that they always long for each other. That they desire to stay in close communication with each other all the days of their life. May today be what lasts forever. Lord, that is the prayer of my Mama’s heart. Help them oh Lord to long for each other and never let life get in the way of their best-friend status.
Well the crying went on for at least 10 minutes before we could calm Natalie down. At first I suggested that Jacob crawl into bed with Natalie so that they could snuggle together while I distracted her/them by continuing to read the chapter. But Jacob didn’t like that plan- Natalie was a blubbering crying mess. He was only okay with that if she could stop crying. It was unsettling him. She couldn’t stop. So, instead, I suggested that they both run over to my bed and sit alongside of me as I finished the chapter. Well, even in my bed, all snuggled up close, Natalie could simply not think beyond that day when Jacob would one day move out. Jacob tried to make her feel better by saying things like “but I can come home on the weekends and during vacations, right Mama?” Yes, Jacob.
I could tell from his eyes that he was trying to talk himself into the reality of that solution as well. He was just as shaken up by it all. As an 8-year old he couldn’t yet imagine having a desire to move away from home. He wanted to still be at home with his parents. And rightfully so. This is the place for two young children.
So I sat there with the two of them snuggled by my side, soaking in the reality that all of this working-up happened because they had become soooooooo enraptured by the beautiful tale written by L.M. Montgomery. They had fallen in love with Anne. They hung on every word describing her life. They were overtaken by the sadness of her leaving her home and Avonlea to go off to college. They had become invested in this story. Her character had been deeply and richly developed by the author. Oh what a mark of a brilliantly written novel!!! Here I was delighting in the fact that my 6-year old and 8-year old, who I would never have dreamed ready to hear the tale of Anne of Green Gables, were fully fixated on the life of the main character. So much so that they were making grievously sorrowful connections of it to their own life.
Then all of a sudden Natalie let out the most rip-roaring, juicy-sounding, horrifically disgusting fart ever!!! She’s been in the business of making horrible farts lately. But man this one was a real doozy! Jacob started laughing his head off. It was the perfect comic relief. I took the opportunity to distract them and cause them to laugh harder by making an incredible dramatic response of how disgusted I was by the horrific thing. And so they both had a hearty laugh and Natalie’s eyes dried up.
I picked up the book and continued to read. Anne said her tearful goodbyes to her bosom friend Diana. All of a sudden Natalie asked if she could please lay on top of me like she used to when she was a baby. Okay, sure. So there I lay with my 4 foot long daughter lying on top of my horizontal body. I could feel her toes on my shins. It won’t be long before she will be as tall as me, I thought to myself. She snuggled in close to me, holding on as tight as can be. At one point as I was reading she interrupted and asked if she could pleeeeease look at my wedding photo album. Huh? No. But I knew what was going on. Her heart was clinging desperately to the idea of an intact family. A mama and a daddy romantically in love with one another and making vows with one another to be together forever and ever. Her, lying over me, feeling as much as my body as possible in connection with her- reassuring her that she was with her mama. And her brother sitting right beside her. Then the world was all in order in her mind.
At 8:00 I announced it was time for bed. No more. Time to scurry off to bed. They crawled down the hallway just to be funny. They laughed a cathartic laugh. I let them, knowing it was what their soul needed. It was heavy stuff for their little hearts- the thought of being fully grown up and moving out.
One day that day will come. And as Jacob told Natalie in the middle of it: “the good thing Natalie, is that then we won’t be able to fight.”
Yes. So true. Rest assured we still have 10 years of sibling fighting lying ahead of us.
As I tucked Natalie into bed, she ran her fingers over my face. Typically I swat wandering fingers away. But tonight I let them travel, allowing her to feel the contours of my eyes and nose, even gently touching my eyelashes. She wanted to feel and touch every part of my face. I’m not entirely sure what that was all about but I let her. Our hearts were bonding in the process. She whispered “mama, my heart hurts”. Yes, I know sweet pea. I know that sadness that will grip us one day. Goodbyes are not easy. I thought all this in my head and promised I would come straight to the computer to record it all.
May their friendship be blessed and tight all the days of their life.