“Oh, Marilla, you’d be excited, too, if you were going to meet a little girl you hoped to be your bosom friend and whose mother mightn’t like you.”
We’ve often heard of the saying “you can’t choose your family but you can choose your friends.” But Anne Shirley — orphaned as a babe and merely taken in grudgingly by neighbors — had neither the opportunity to bear the complexity of family dynamics or the luxury of selecting friends.
Anne learned at a very young age the cruelty and isolation of being friendless. Anne didn’t want friends, she needed them. She needed them so badly she made up imaginary friends out of bookcase reflections and echoes. Here was a person so in need of human interaction that she clung even to those who haven’t particularly warmed up to her (yet). For example, she opened up very very quickly to Matthew and Marilla, despite being relative strangers and in spite of knowing they probably wouldn’t adopt her. Earlier in my Anne-reading years, I chalked this up to her lack of “proper bringing up” and ignorance of social dynamics. Now I think it’s that AND she was just that starved for companionship.
Even as a kid, I was weirded out by Anne’s first encounter with Diana Barry. I mean, who does that — decide in a few swift moments to be bosom buddies for life with a girl whom she just met? Not to mention, make her new bosom buddy take a solemn vow. This extreme lack of caution over whom she’d invest her affections in is dumbfounding and slightly disturbing. But to Anne, friendship was a need, just like food and shelter. And with regard to needs, beggars can’t be choosers.
As Anne grew up and gained some stability in her life in terms of relationships, she did learn to be more discerning in choosing her friends. But that emotionally hungry child in the first few chapters of Anne of Green Gables is a strong illustration of the necessity of friendship.
When I was 5 years old, I was semi-transferred to my grandmother’s house in San Juan while my entire family lived in Quezon City. This was because the school I was enrolled in was in San Juan. The house was isolated in the sense that we had no neighbors. For a 5 year old kid, it was a gigantic house — by my count, it had 7 bedrooms at the time.
Having no other kids in proximity to play with, I resorted to my imagination. I claimed one of the second floor rooms (the yellow painted one) as my playroom. I pretended that the closet was full with dresses and that I had a carriage. And of course, I had an imaginary friend named Becky (based on the Becky character in the animated series, Princess Sarah). Needless to say, I can relate with Anne Shirley — when you can’t have real friends, make up your own.