I lead a double life.
There’s the “mom, wife, working person, friend” me. Then there’s the “book” me.
In my book world, I have an enormous circle of fictional friends and family who are as dear to me, in their way, as my own real family. There’s Anne Shirley, Pooh and Piglet, Precious Ramatswe and Mr. J.L.B. Matakoni, Beezus and Ramona Quimby, Sam Gardner of Harmony, the many villagers in Miss Read’s “Thrush Green” and “Fairacre” series, and so many more…
And then there’s Mrs. Miniver.
Often regarded as a novel about life in London during WWII, “Mrs. Miniver” by Jan Struther is, for me, a very intimate glimpse into the mind and life of a wife and mother. The main character’s thought processes, her whimsical approach to life, and her dedication to her very mundane but joyful life are so familiar to me it’s uncanny. From her attachment to her yearly appointment diary to her observations about marriage (“It seemed to her sometimes that the most important thing about marriage was not a home or children or a remedy against sin, but simply there being always an eye to catch.”) to the importance of knowing exactly what words the windshield wipers on her new car whisper every time they swipe (it turns out to be not “sea green” or “wee free” but “beef tea, beef tea”)…Mrs Miniver manages to capture just what I feel about nearly every aspect of life.
I first discovered Mrs. Miniver when my children were very young. I was in the midst of discovering that even though life can throw extremely difficult curve balls, I could still experience joy and fulfillment simply by doing what I loved most – being a mom and keeping a happy house.
Then, years of busy-ness got in the way, as they tend to do, and I forgot about Mrs. Miniver until just a couple of years ago. When I suddenly recalled that life-changing piece of literature, I searched our library system and discovered it was no longer carried. I searched online and found that the book was out of print. Having lost this touchstone in my life felt something like leaving a child behind on a rest stop during a long road trip (not that I’ve ever done that, I swear!) – how on earth could I forget someone I love so dearly?
Middle Sister, who shares my propensity for living a secret book life, came to the rescue. She hunted down a second-hand copy of “Mrs. Miniver” for my Christmas gift that year. I think my reunion with my old friend was made all the more poignant because it came through the efforts of my darling daughter.
My special fictional friend now lives happily on my bookshelf, along with so many others. I took her out for a visit over the weekend, and am carefully meting out the vignettes found in each brief chapter – it’s a novel to be savored slowly.
Do you have fictional friends that bring joy to your life? I’d love to hear about them!