What would Marilla do?

I am getting old. I am the mom in the book instead of the coming-of-age heroine. I am Mrs. Bennet clucking over five husband-less girls. I am Marilla Cuthbert, mopping the kitchen floor, weeping, after seeing Anne off to Queens while her pretty bosom friend goes on a picnic with cousins.

I am the comfortable marriage and bearable mortgage, not the idealistic dreamer of genteel, educated poverty. More hearth guardian Mrs. March, less fire in the belly Jo.

And yet Anne was a mother, a mother of, let’s see: Jem, Walter, Di and Nan, Shirley, Rilla, yes, six. Why can’t I be a mother like Anne? She never yelled, she probably composed odes to eyebrows and greeted each day as a grand adventure. She made her kids feel loved, and special, and unique, and different in a good way. Recited poetry at the dinner table instead of reminding of the “no singing at the table” rule.

Yesterday Callie was awful at Hobby Lobby and Costco and waiting during Parent-Teacher Conferences for Avery. She ran down the aisles, included Lucy in her crazy shenanigans. She said she wanted to do something fun. I just wanted some quiet. In the car she read books to Lucy and passed crackers to the baby. Lucy couldn’t see the pictures from the back seat and Callie told her kindly to use her imagination.

I thought: this is the Anne Mother Moment. My kids are not a dead loss. They are worth what I am doing here, they are worth watching, worth listening to, worth my attention, worth describing and remembering and liking. (Loving, always, that goes with the heart milk; liking is harder, except when it’s a free gift).

But I am not the Anne Mother. The minivan stops at our next stop and it’s back to fighting or whining or snotty nose crying and I am not the Anne Mother.

I am the Marilla Mother. And I guess the best thing about her is that she really didn’t want Anne, she wanted a hardy farmboy, but what she got was a fragile yet strong, slender and red-haired, day-dreamer, flavor the cake with liniment girl.

And she kept her.