Wednesday, June 2, 2010

my roots.

To prepare for a summer sans Jordan, I’ve brought out my dusty Gilmore Girls DVDs. It’s the one show Jordan doesn’t have much patience for; he finds Lorelai obnoxious and the fast-paced jabber too unrealistic for his taste. I don’t mind too much. He’s sat through three seasons of Mary Tyler Moore, drama with Felicity, and multiple viewings of seasons one through four of The Office, so I can’t complain.

In between episodes, though, I’m reading a recently-released biography of Louisa May Alcott. It’s slower reading than my typical fiction fare, but I’m enjoying it.

So what do the girls and Louisa have in common, you might ask?



As I’m reacquainting myself with Stars Hollow and diving into the 19th century world of the transcendentalists, I’m struck by the sense that there exist bits and pieces of me just about everywhere.

I often wonder just how I’ve become me. Why I get passionate over certain things and couldn’t care less about others. Why I waver between country and city, simple and metropolitan, liberal and conservative, feminist and not.

One look at my upbringing would, I imagine, explain a lot. I’ve got a large extended family, and many of my relatives have made their own marks on my passions and interests. My mother and father and brother have contributed in more ways than they may ever know, and Jordan, too, has influenced me and helped shape me into who I am today. Fellow church members, professors, and peers all have left stamps of themselves on my soul.

But then there are those from my imagination. The ones my parents graciously introduced me to the moment they brought home a book or took me to the library.

These people are almost as real to me as the ones I can reach out and touch. And they, too, have made their mark.

Anne Shirley, the orphan girl with the red hair. Emily Byrd Starr, Anne’s lesser-known literary counterpart, whose love for writing has long rivaled my own.

There’s Jo March, who I always wanted to be, despite the fact that a rough-and-tumble tomboy I’m probably not. Polly Milton, whose simplistic, classy ways I’ve read about more times than I can count.

I was introduced to Domenica Santolina Doone and her adventures at the American School in Switzerland, Rose Campbell with her rowdy and crazy cousins, Laura Wilder and her beloved Pa, Elizabeth Bennet and her desire to be understood by someone, anyone.

There’s brainy Hermione Granger, feisty Felicity Merriman, independent Harriet Welch, wild Caddie Woodlawn, unforgettable Betsy Ray, mischievous Scout Finch, rough-and-tumble Leslie Burke, and free-spirited Stargirl Caraway.

For most everyone else, these dynamic souls were confined to the pages of a book — once closed, forgotten. But for me, these characters go deeper. The lessons they learned, they taught me. In short, these are the ladies I want to have over for dinner.

Their strong, independent spirits inspired me to be the same and yet, uniquely my own. On a small scale, it’s why I’m drawn to Rory Gilmore, Mary Richards, Kathleen Kelly. It’s why I read about Louisa and Lucy — the creators of some of the characters I love most — and see a little bit of me.

It’s a good thing, I think, to have roots of myself in the pages of a book. It gives me hope that one day, I’ll have a story of my own to tell. A story of another strong, imaginative, independent woman; a story that hasn’t been told just quite yet.


Amanda said...

I love this post! I feel the same way.

The "Emily of New Moon" series was my absolute favorite (and really - it still is). I wanted to be friends with L.M. Montgomery more than you can believe. I even subscribed to the "Kindred Spirits" newsletter (straight from PEI) from 6th to 8th grade, and had a framed picture of Montgomery on my desk. My parents actually took me to Prince Edward Island for my 16th birthday.

I think book heroines have shaped who I've become almost as much as real living people. And now, at (almost) 30, I haven't changed all that much. I still wish my middle name was Byrd.

Maggie said...

What a brilliant list! It all begins with Nancy Drew and Jo March for me. I'm going to think long and hard about my literary heroine list and report back :-).