The wash of waves on giant inland lakes, the scent of grilling hot dogs, the bright green of leaves and grass, the fun of mosquito bites during weekend picnics.
Um, maybe not the last.
But however much it hurts to say goodbye to fall, I dearly love to welcome autumn to my little corner of America. The crackling crunch of warm fall leaves as I take brisk autumn walks...warm slices of apple pie dripping with cinnamon...favorite wool sweaters...my birthday season...In former years it brought the thrill of brand-new school textbooks and the blank lined pages of notebooks soon to be filled. But it doesn't this year. It's rather funny, but you have to say goodbye to things twice in life. I said goodbye to formal education in December, but now I'm saying it again as the new school year starts for many others of my acquaintance.
In this season, when my sadness at saying goodbye to some things is mixed with my gladness at saying hello to others, I most enjoy L.M. Montgomery's Jane of Lantern Hill. Many people know Montgomery for her Anne series, which I also enjoy, but Jane is her best book ever written, and the epitome of hope.
Jane has lived in Toronto with her mother and her grandmother all eleven years of her existence. Or so she thinks. She's as happy as anybody can be living in dreary old 60 Gay Street, with a spiteful grandmother and the knowledge that her Mummy isn't happy. Not really happy, in spite of the little smile wrinkles around her eyes, and the laugh as clear as the ring of a bell. When a malicious classmate tells her what she never knew--that her father is still living, and her parents separated soon after she was born--she understands the bitter spark in her grandmother's eyes, and her mother's hopeless little ways. None of the Kennedy's liked Andrew Stuart, and a marriage that went south only served to cement their opinion of him.
Then, out of the blue, Andrew Stuart writes to say that he would like to get to know his daughter, and she is to come to spend the summer with him on Prince Edward Island. Jane is absolutely sure she will hate everything about it, and him.
But the moment she looks into his impish laughing eyes, she knows she has found a kindred spirit: Dad. With a full summer meeting Islanders--the Jimmy Johns, Step-a-yard, Polly Garland, and the Snowbeams--Jane comes into her own, and grows in confidence and happiness. The love that she shares with her father in a dream of a little cottage, with the cats First Peter and Second Peter and a dog named Happy are the dearest days she has ever had.
Winter comes, and Jane ticks off the days that must pass before she can go back Home to the Island. Her grandmother is furious, and her mother is very sad, but Jane is determined that she will return to the place where she can be real and loved. The only teasing worry that she has is the attraction between her father and a Miss Lillian Morrow, egged on by her sweet Aunt Irene.
Another delightful summer passes, in which Jane is little housekeeper for her father. Gradually she begins piecing together the reasons for he parents' separation, and a small, tenacious hope grows in her heart that they will return to each other. Both her parents warn her that it can never be, but she refuses to give up.
Then, when Jane turns thirteen, her father finds some success in his writing, and Aunt Irene convinces Jane that he will seek a divorce and marry Miss Morrow. Incensed at the thought of such a tragedy, Jane determines to find out the truth from the only one who can tell her--her father.
This is a beautiful story of a daughter who honored both of her parents in spite their differences. Full of dreamy little bits of life--fat doughnuts and twisty pine trees, and the salt spray of the ocean-- Jane of Lantern Hill will enchant you. I loved her mother's pretty dresses and the hilarious episodes with Persian cats and soaking codfish. Full of delightful descriptions from the eyes of Jane, you will laugh and cry as you befriend her forever. Each Autumn as she says goodbye to her father, and returns to a house where she does not feel at home, I can relate to her feelings myself as I say goodbye to places I love every summer. It's the sweet pathos of parting with hope for the future.
Perhaps Jane's relationship with her father struck a chord with me because of my kinship with my own father. Though I do not know the pain of separated family, I love how that they treasure each other's hearts, and find such kindred pleasures. Every girl should know the love of a father. Whether or not you know the love of an earthly one, I pray that every daughter who reads this knows the love of her Heavenly Father--who promises to be a father to the fatherless, when our earthly fathers are not there for us. And I hope that every daughter from a broken home will know the hope of Jane Stuart, and find it abundantly fulfilled.
Take a few moments to relax, and settle down with a thirteen-year-old girl from the race that knows Joseph. May you love her at first sight as much as I did.