(Photo:Author Camille DiMaio at the real Green Gables in Prince Edward Island in 2016)
Pollyanna. Anne Shirley. Jane Eyre.
These fictional characters were perhaps more influential to my life any other woman who has walked the earth.
I had far more books than friends growing up. I recessed in the library while everyone else played in the parking lot. I read all the Nancy Drews, the Bobsey Twins, and raided my local library for more.
Books are powerful influencers at a young age.
Pollyanna might be the strongest for me. Her “Glad Game”, in which she finds something to be “glad” about in every situation, still permeates the philosophy I live and breath. I probably annoy my children with this. You know, the starving kids in Africa speech. Yeah, I’ve used it.
But it works in bigger ways. It started with gratitude at a red light. My half-German side, which fiendishly cares about being on time, used to tense up when the light turned and I’d have to stop. But I started playing the Glad Game. “I’m glad I got the red light. Maybe I was spared an accident that could have happened if it had been green instead.”
This grew into deeper and more frequent embraces of what appeared to be bad or inconvenient in life and helped me develop a personality that is fairly unflappable.
However bad things get, someone has it worse.
Anne Shirley taught me how to feel things. Her tendency to overdramatize life and see the world in an over the top way allowed me to feel and see and experience things deeply. Perhaps not as dramatically, but likely with more regard than I might have if faced with a more dull heroine.
Are the clouds merely beautiful, or are they the glistening white castles of a powerful princess who lives among giants in the sky?
Ok. Maybe not. But inspiration and imagination – two key ingredients to being a writer – are often found by thinking of things in such a way before fashioning them into a good story.
And Jane Eyre. Oh, my Jane. The timid, plain girl who won the heart of the dashing, wealthy, and foreboding Mr. Rochester. If she can aspire to his love, there is hope for all of us, right? But, after attaining that love, she refuses his proposal rather than engaging in the moral repercussions of a bigamist marriage. How strong was our Jane! How noble!
Jane’s steadfast grip on her beliefs – even at the sacrifice of her happiness – influenced me to examine my own beliefs and consider what I would do to defend them.
There are many others, so very many other characters who shape and mold open minds. But Pollyanna, Anne, and Jane are my most beloved. If you have not read their stories, I hope you will. Then they can become your beloved girls, too.