When we started planning our holiday in Canada, I knew that, this time, we had to go to Prince Edward Island. We have visited Auntie Mary in Edmonton (in the West) twice already, but I found myself saying to The One and Only Husband, “…wouldn’t it be nice to see the East as well. You know, Nova Scotia… Halifax… And…. Ooh… We could go to Prince Edward Island. They’ve built a bridge now, you know.”
“Why?” asked One and Only.
Auntie Mary was not encouraging. “Well, you could go to PEI if you like… Yep, you go there and see what you think of it.” I knew what she was getting at. The existence of The Shining Waters Family Fun Park, which I’d seen advertised on the Internet, was surely enough to put off anyone over ten years old.
However, last Friday lunchtime saw us driving over the Confederation Bridge from New Brunswick into PEI then eating lunch in Tim Horton’s diner in Summerside, thinking about how to spend our afternoon. One and Only was all for going to the Anne of Green Gables museum at Park Corner immediately, so as to get-it-over-with, I think. So we did. Dear Reader, this was no theme park. Think National Trust, without the tea room. This was no children’s thing. In fact, its clientele were all (except for One and Only) middle aged women, quietly and respectfully walking from room to room, looking at the first edition books on the shelves, perusing mounted letters and photographs. The setting was idyllic, with the real Lake of Shining Waters in the grounds of the museum.
It was so moving I nearly cried. I found my eyes brimming with tears, one if those truly heart-stopping moments which are so unbearably intense you want them to end. Yes, I know it was all fiction and none of it really happened, you know, but L M Montgomery’s Anne Shirley, along with the Elinor Brent-Dyer’s Chalet School, and Enid Blyton’s stories , had formed a huge part of my reading childhood. Also my mother had recommended Anne of Green Gables to me (as she had the Chalet School) and I had, unconsciously imbibed and internalised L M Montgomery’s outlook on life, loving, homely, grounded and – in spite of her sad start in life – upbeat.
The most poignant exhibits were a letter in which Lucy Maud recalled a meeting with someone who had known her mother ( who had died when she was 22 months old) and another letter in which she thanked a nephew for sending her $10 as, apparently, she earned very little from her books. In one of her diary pages on display, she recounts how she wrote the first chapter of Anne of Green Gables, the one where Mrs Rachel Lynde sees Matthew Cuthbert go out in his pony and trap, how the words just came to her, as she sat at the kitchen table in the evening sunshine. I believe her.
(Will include photos later. They are on my iPhone and I’m writing this on the iPad. I’m writing this post using the Internet facilities on Westjet and we’re about to land in Edmonton. Hope to include photos soon.)