Ancient, like Miss Lavender

Anne of Green Gables is one of my favourite books. Growing up a redhead in a sea of blondes and brunettes, I could identify with Anne’s red hair.

Anne of Green Gables is one of my favourite books. Growing up a redhead in a sea of blondes and brunettes, I could identify with Anne’s red hair.

I was frequently taunted at school with liners such as, “Hey, ketchup head!” or “Did someone forget to bring you in out of the rain? You’re hair’s all rusty.”

You’ve got to love elementary school. Wait, no you don’t.

I used to love Anne of the Island too. The best part of that book was the story of a jilted spinster named Lavender Lewis. The elderly white haired lady lived a reclusive life in a stone house named Echo Lodge deep in the woods. She endeared herself to Anne — and to me — by cultivating a rich youthful imagination that belied her age.

Her eyes still held a sparkle of fun and she was forever inventing reasons to celebrate life. In fact, Anne and her bosom friend, Diana, are startled when they first meet the spinster they have heard so much about. Instead of the usual spinster “with prim gray hair and spectacles” they encounter “a little lady with snow-white hair beautifully wavy and thick and carefully arranged in becoming puffs and coils. Beneath it was an almost girlish face, pink cheeked and sweet lipped, with big soft brown eyes and dimples . . . actually dimples. She wore a very dainty gown of cream muslin with pale-hued roses on it . . . a gown which would have seemed ridiculously juvenile on most women of her age, but which suited Miss Lavender so perfectly that you never thought about it at all.”

I loved Miss Lavender and aspired to be just like her one day when I grew old and gray.

This summer the book practically fell off the shelf into my hands while I was dusting and before I knew it I was several chapters into Anne of the Island while my furniture grimly gathered grime.

I thrilled with expectation as Anne and Diana accidentally stumbled upon Echo Lodge. I felt I had met a kindred spirit all over again when Miss Lavender asks the girls to stay for tea and they glance over at the table beautifully set for six and worry that they will inconvenience Miss Lavender since she is obviously expecting guests.

Miss Lavender looks at the tea table and blushes. “I know you’ll think me dreadfully foolish,” she said. “I am foolish and I’m ashamed of it whenever I’m found out, but never unless I am found out. I’m not expecting anybody I was just pretending I was. You see, I was so lonely. I love company, that is, the right kind of company but so few people ever come here because it is so far out of the way. So I just pretended I was going to have a tea-party. I cooked for it, decorated the table for it and set it with my mother’s wedding china and I dressed up for it.”

Anne is properly enthralled. Diana, on the other hand, thinks this proves Miss Lavender is every bit as dotty as reports have said she was. The next line reads “The idea of a woman of 45 playing at having a tea party just as if she were a little girl!”

Forty-five! Miss Lavender — the elderly lady I aspired to become in my old age was 45? Between 12 and twenty-something I must have revisited those pages at least half a dozen times. Not once do I recall anything but complete agreement that Miss Lavender was awfully old.

The worst part of the whole sorry debacle is the fact that I turn 46 in less than a month.

Good grief. I am going to be older than Miss Lavender! The whole thing is enough to bring on a mid-life crisis. I am just a bank loan away from shooting around town in a pink convertible.

Perhaps I’ll just settle for having a tea party. I’ll make some fancy cookies. It’s like I always say (and by always I mean just this once) there’s nothing like a few fancy cookies to help the world go down.

Shannon McKinnon is a humour columnist from the Peace River country. You can contact her at contact@shannonmckinnon.com

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