I finished reading it to her tonight, and I cried big hot tears when I got to taciturn Marilla's longest piece of dialogue:
"'I don't know what I'd do if you weren't here -- if you'd never come... It's never been easy for me to say things out of my heart, but...I love you as dear as if you were my own flesh and blood and you've been my joy and comfort ever since you came to Green Gables.'"I last read Anne of Green Gables when I was in 8th grade, on the recommendation of my mother who had loved it as a girl. I instantly, passionately adored Anne, and felt that somehow Lucy Maude Montgomery had reached forward through time and across the Canadian border and had written a book about me.
But somehow, as I grew up, Marilla -- beyond the fact that she was the stricter of the two siblings who adopted Anne -- disappeared from my memory of the story. I don't know if I simply didn't understand Marilla when I was thirteen, or if I didn't even notice her because she was a grownup, or if I did in fact notice but subsequently forgot all those passages that clue the reader into Marilla's often hysterically funny inner dialogue (which almost always runs counter to what she says out loud).
But this time around, as I read Anne of Green Gables out loud to Aliza, Marilla came to life, spoke through me and to me, and broke my heart.
For her part, Aliza loved the book, and was touched by it, but remained dry-eyed throughout. She was properly (and loudly) frustrated by Anne's years-long grudge against poor Gilbert Blythe. She lulled herself to sleep each night by imagining walking arm in arm with Anne and Diana down Lover's Lane. She twisted handfuls of quilt at the very mention of mean, mean Josie Pye's name. She fidgeted, stood up, sat down, fidgeted some more, and was simply unable to sit still while worrying about Matthew. And when she figured out the story's one sad plot twist just before it happened, she bleated, "Oh no!" and clutched her face.
She felt that Anne grew up too quickly, wishing that more of the story featured the adventures and "scrapes" of a more Aliza-aged Anne.
I agreed, and cried big hot tears all over again (not so much about Anne growing up) as I read the following passage:
"'Why Anne, how you've grown!" she said, almost unbelievingly. A sigh followed on the words. Marilla felt a queer regret over Anne's inches. The child she had learned to love had vanished somehow and here was this tall, serious-eyed girl...with the thoughtful brows and the proudly poised little head, in her place. Marilla loved the girl as much as she had loved the child, but she was conscious of a...sorrowful sense of loss. And that night...Marilla sat alone in the wintry twilight and indulged in the weakness of a cry."