By Rochelle Tallmadge
Growing up as a skinny, talkative redhead, I never felt normal. I was a late-bloomer. When all my friends looked 16, I looked 12. I was ALWAYS writing sentences because I couldn’t keep my mouth shut (I WILL NOT TALK IN CLASS… I WILL NOT TALK IN CLASS…). And I definitely didn’t feel pretty.
I boldly announced to my mother’s hairdresser one day when I was 9, that when I grew up I would dye my hair black. All the old ladies in the salon cried out in exclamations of dismay. -But what do old ladies know, anyway?
“There is no such thing as a pretty, skinny redhead,” I thought. I was surrounded by pretty blonde “Lisa’s” and “Sarah’s”; darling brunette “Laura’s” and “Marcie’s”. I was a just homely redheaded “Rochelle”. What kind of name is Rochelle?!?
“Please,” I thought, “Just call me Cordelia. Or Michelle. Just not ROchelle. Better yet, call me Scarlett.”
See, from the age of 7, I had worshiped Scarlett O’Hara, the heroine of Gone With The Wind. She was selfish and nasty. But she was brave and beautiful. And brunette. My parents were worried about my misguided hero-worship. Let’s be honest: no mother wants her daughter emulating a boyfriend-stealing, slave-slapping lead character.
But luckily for my parents, sometime in the mid ‘80’s, a new girl came to town and she was everything they’d been looking for in a protagonist. She was my spirit animal. Anne Shirley.
Anne Shirley was the creation of L.M. Montgomery in 1908. But I could have sworn she was just the re-incarnation of myself. Skinny, talkative, goofy and with bright red hair. The only thing she had that I didn’t was an exotic past spent in orphanages (You can’t win ‘em all).
The mini-series, Anne of Green Gables, based on the popular books, was released on PBS and in Downton-like fervor, my friends and I would wait with eager anticipation each week for the next installment from Canada (England isn’t the only place for romantic period dramas).
She hated her name. She hated her hair. She loved all things romantic and beautiful. She had a killer imagination. All of the girls at my high school loved her. Including me. But I didn’t just love her, I was her. For the first time in my life, someone admirable and lovely was like me!
I devoured the books. There wasn’t just one; but there were eight. EIGHT!! And each got better than the one before. Anne had success and gained beauty and admirers. Her hair turned a right handsome auburn.
I had hope that perhaps I, too, could grow out of my awkwardness. Was it possible to be a pretty redhead like Anne turned out to be? Was it possible to find a charming, dazzling, kind boy like Gilbert Blythe? Could I grow up to be successful and lovely too? Oh, I had hope!! For the first time in my young life, I had hope!
Over the years, I have read the Anne of Green Gables series at least a dozen times. It always transports me to a fairy-land of beauty and grace. I watched the television series more times than I could count.
When I grew up, my hair turned a right handsome auburn (In fact, I’ve never dyed it!). I’m not quite as goofy looking as I started out to be. I’m also not quite as skinny anymore… And I met the loveliest boy who even knew the lines from the Anne of Green Gables mini-series! I knew he must be the one! His name wasn’t Gil. But it was Greg, and that was pretty close.
When we had been married for about twelve years, he took me to Prince Edward Island, where Anne Shirley lived in her beloved Green Gables. We walked through the Haunted Wood and we gazed over the Lake of Shining Waters. He held my hand on the red beaches of the ocean shore and bought me raspberry cordial (And lobster. Because, hello? Lobster!).
The best thing about Anne of Green Gables is that you don’t have to be an ugly, awkward redhead to love it. Everyone loves it! It is the perfect book for girls of all ages. My pretty blonde daughters can enjoy it every bit as much as I do! There is something in it for everyone to relate to.
And if you haven’t read it yet (or seen it!), run (don’t walk) to the nearest library (or Amazon). Your life is about to change for the better. It’s everything that is dreamy and lovely.
Have you read it? Are you as love-struck by Anne as I am? If you read it on my recommendation, please let me know what you thought! Who is the protagonist that you most relate to?