It is fitting that we begin on the roof. Long ago, when my parents first taught me to enjoy stories, I desired adventure and often found it on the top of our house. Yes, the somewhat dizzying height and challenge of walking upright on slanted asphalt shingles was an adventure. Yes, it felt daring to pick kumquats from the topmost branches that reached over the garage, leaning just far enough so my toes didn’t slip from the edge. However, there were other adventures, too.
My mother was brave enough to climb with me on certain days, probably when I didn’t really want to read, so that we could recline on the roof side by side. Then she read aloud while I stared at the sky or rolled twigs down into the backyard.
One of the stories that is burned on my memory is of a little girl named Anne, who walked along the very top of a roof to the horror of her friends–so the rooftop remains to me a sign of sorts. You see, my mother knew I desired adventure, and that I would find a kindred spirit in the pages of Anne of Green Gables.
And now, my wife and I are raising three not-so-little-anymore adventurers. We’ve had our fair share of Nerf gun battles and knock-down football games, and any pair of pants without holes in the knees is rare. Of course, their elaborate fort outside is boys only, and the books they enjoy are often war-themed or dabble in bathroom humor.
Over the course of the last year or so, however, we’ve introduced our three sons to Anne and her deep imagination. Once we broke through the initial resistance, and they began to hope Anne would stay at Green Gables, we watched as they latched onto each character.
The constant problems Anne finds herself in are delightful. We shared wide-eyed smiles as she dyed her hair green, inadvertently intoxicated her best friend Diana, and broke her writing slate over Gilbert’s head.
Of course, it’s often her imagination that gets her into scrapes repeatedly. We marveled at her good spirits through it all, and we admired her ability to see bare reality with an open and expectant heart. Her knack for finding trouble through her vibrant mind opened discussions on how the imagination is dangerous–if we allow it to run uncontrolled, without Christ, it grows wild and dark.
That same imagination wooed her adoptive family, too: Marilla softened and loved Anne more than she knew she was able; Matthew shook himself free from his passive shelter and acted when Anne needed him.
And so, through the first three Anne books, our rough boys have grown to love Anne, too. It’s been a new delight for me to revisit Green Gables with my family, and the delight is double knowing that Anne has invited another generation of roof-top seekers to join her. As a boy, it was good for me to hear about the hopes and adventures of a girl; to this day I’ve seen how this perspective has kept my eyes open to a world that’s foreign to me. And because the fort out back is strictly off limits to girls, Anne’s feminine influence has been effectively smuggled into our home through her story — a story I pray we will come back to again and again.
As an avid reader of fantasy and science fiction, sometimes the truth of Narnia seems deeper to him than the truth of his hometown.
He's written for Wichita Family Magazine, Bewildering Stories, and Vine Leaves Literary Journal. He blogs here: ianmanderson.blogspot.com.