Disclaimer: Most reflections for Emily (and Anne) were written—and will be written—by incredibly smart, scholarly writers with a sharp eye for story and meaning. Reader, that’s not me (I embrace my fluffiness, ala Ruby Gillis in the Anne books, both in writing and in my life). But we always need a little bit of fluff in life.
When the readalong signups opened, I jumped for chapter fourteen. To me, this chapter has always been about connection—connection to Emily and connection to my family. By the time I’d reached “Fancy Fed,” I already identified so much with Emily, even though our worlds and family situations were a century apart. We both loved writing, books, nature, and cats!
And when ten-year-old me recapped this chapter and this “historical” farming fact for my parents and sisters, my mom surprised me by saying, “Oh, we did that, too. You have to boil the potatoes so the pigs could eat.” It’s funny how that first moment of closeness to Emily’s physical world came through my mom, whose name is the Portuguese version of Emily and who grew up on a farm in Portugal—not quite the same as New Moon because they had oranges, grapevines, and olives rather than lombardies, but, like New Moon, the farm also grew corn and potatoes and they raised pigs. And, like Cousin Jimmy, my mom is the first to weave us stories from her childhood of old family legends passed through the generations, stories of bandits and hiding from Napoleon’s troops and tales about the family members sleeping peacefully in the town graveyard. There was no Cousin Jimmy reciting poetry, no dancing around a fire, no PEI October chills, but there was a connection—from the 1990s to the 1950s to turn-of-the-20th century Emily. Our worlds weren’t as far apart as I believed.
It was similar with reading about Old Kelly, though this time it was my own experience that connected me to Emily’s world—when I was younger, my mom’s little town also still had peddlers driving through, fascinating us every summer vacation as we ran to get bread from the baker or to check out the fishmonger’s specials in his truck, get something from the grocer, or get caught up in conversations with Roma vendors passing through with random wares. These peddlers, like Old Kelley, knew everyone in town, and it fascinated me to see these salespeople on wheels. No Roman chariots clanking down the road—rather, entire, tiny markets in the back of a truck.
In this chapter, we also get our first description of Teddy’s “call,” the whistle he uses only for Emily throughout the series, and our first hint of something special between Emily and Teddy:
“Emily always knew when Teddy was coming, for when he reached the old orchard he whistled his “call”—the one he used just for her—a funny, dear call, like three clear bird notes, the first just medium pitch, the second higher, the third dropping away into lowness and sweetness long-drawn out—like the echoes in the Bugle Song that went clearer and further into their dying. That call always had an odd effect on Emily; it seemed to her that it fairly drew the heart out of her body—and she had to follow it. She thought Teddy could have whistled her clear across the world with those three magic notes.”
(Sidenote: any other writers notice their writing style had been so influenced by LM Montgomery’s that you have to struggle NOT to write 67-word long sentences?)
This is where one of the more scholarly contributors to this readalong would knock it out of the park with a wonderful analysis, but you get me, bouncing in my chair happily as I remember becoming a “Temily” shipper (granted, pre-teen and teen me would have probably felt the same pull—at the same exaggeratedly “round the world” level—about a phone call from a boy whose “looks” I liked, and even adult me admits the same… BUT, I’ll make the not-so-wild assumption that Montgomery was hinting here at a true connection between Teddy and Emily—something more than a pre-teen crush).
This was LMM’s greatest skill—writing characters so vivid and so human that, a century later, we’re still able to connect with them. Adult me sees the sadness in Jimmy’s situation, the magic of October nights that bring me back to camping and the joy of eating next to a bonfire, and a strong example of Emily’s compassion and fire, all things glossed over by little me, but this chapter will always bring me back to my family dinner table and my own “Emily’s” stories. It’s a small world, a century is not that long ago, and we’re all so wonderfully and surprisingly connected.
BIO: Isabel Bandeira is the author of the Ever After series (Bookishly Ever After, Dramatically Ever After, and Practically Ever After). Creation is a big part of her life, from books to medical devices as a mechanical engineer. Her goal in life is to become a modern L.M. Montgomery heroine.