Anne of Green Gables & family ties

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During our trip to PEI, we visited Green Gables, of course. Although L.M. Montgomery never lived there, her cousins’ house and farm was the inspiration for the setting of her famous book Anne of Green Gables. The property has been designated as a National Historic Site of Canada and is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country.

Our friend and hostess Polly (yes, a real life person!), Rob and I were glad to be there on a less crowded week day and freely roamed around the lovingly restored house, inside and out. After perusing every possible Anne themed souvenir in the gift shop, Polly (doll above) sighed with relief when she came across a stack of books.

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Green Gables is set up as if the character Anne Shirley and her adoptive family of Matthew and Marilla lived there in the late 1800’s. The rooms are furnished with a wonderful collection of period pieces and Anne’s room includes important book related items, like her carpet bag and puffed sleeve dresses.

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This is where the family tie to Anne of Green Gables comes in. But, first a little family history. Growing up, I heard about our relatives in Toronto, the “Canadian Cousins”. We were the only branch of the family to move to America, where my grandfather followed his career in biology. My father’s grandparents, aunt, uncle and cousins in Canada seemed so much more interesting than the few family members we knew at home. The stories of their lives emphasized an unconventional and creative spirit, full of drama and public service. I never met them in person and that may be why they still loom large in my mind as colorful characters who were celebrated for their leadership and vision (at least in Canada).

I heard about my totally eccentric great-grandfather, James Mavor, who through his connections with the Canadian government and Russian Tolstoyans, helped arrange the mass immigration of the Doukhobors from Russia to Saskatchewan in 1898. I’ve never met an American who knows about the Doukhobors, but I think most Canadians have at least heard of them or know their descendants. There were also stories about James Mavor’s daughter, my great-aunt Dora Mavor Moore who is considered the Grand Dame of Canadian Theater. My father talked about Dora and her son, his first cousin, Mavor Moore who was a multi-talented creative force in CBC radio and television and the arts. These relatives and my parents are gone, but the family remembrances live on through stories, creating narratives beyond mere names and dates on a genealogy chart.

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In Charlottetown, we saw the last performance of the season of “Anne of Green Gables – The Musical™”, which I really enjoyed.  I already knew that Mavor Moore had been involved from the show’s beginning in 1965 and was Co-writer of the lyrics.

What I didn’t know was that his daughter, Charlotte Moore was on stage, playing the leading role of Marilla. During intermission, I read the program and couldn’t believe it when her name and picture popped out. We had not met, but I was aware that she was a professional actress and singer, carrying on the family theater tradition.

 

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After the show, it seemed almost impossible to send a message back stage, but another actor told us that the cast sometimes gathers in the bar at Mavor’s Restaurant (named after Mavor Moore) in the same theater complex. We only waited a few minutes in the bar before I heard the name “Charlotte” being called out behind me. I turned around and there she was, my real life “Canadian Cousin”. After some quick introductions, we had a great chat about the family. I also got to meet Mavor Moore’s widow, opera singer, Alexandra Brown Moore, who was visiting PEI from Victoria, BC.

We were all so delighted to finally meet each other! I felt connected to the Canadian branch of my family in a way I hadn’t experienced before. Our interaction made me realize that sometimes just showing up, taking notice and making a little effort can make all the difference in how life unfolds. It’s daunting to think that I am the older generation now. How could that possibly be? After all, I still play with dolls, for goodness sake!

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20 thoughts on “Anne of Green Gables & family ties

  1. I so enjoyed reading about your PEI experiences and the wonderful family connections. My husband and I are RV fulltimers and were fortunate to spent the month of August, 2015, exploring PEI. We fell in love with the area. I had not read Anne of Green Gables until last spring, but fell completely in love with everything Maud Lucy Montgomery and Anne. There has been so much care given to preservation and presentation. One really can feel the importance of this author and her stories to the people who live there.

    I had read that Anne of Green Gables is taught in Japanese schools, but was still unprepared for the busloads of Japanese visitors. It was delightful to see so many young couples with children, especially daughters, coming all that way to see Anne literally “come alive”. I haven’t the words to fully communicate the authenticity.

    Your photographs brought back pleasant memories of my own experiences. I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to visit this incredibly beautiful and wonderful island.

  2. Absolutely fascinating…timing indeed is everything! It’s amazing that you caught the final performance of the show, which allowed you to i expectantly meet your relatives. Circles of life and happenstance always reassure me that there is a grand scheme of things and that we need to try to stay connected and ready to be amazed.

  3. Dear Sally:

    What a delightful and timely newsletter from you. We were just at the Confederation centre last Friday after spending a week at Kindred Spirits cottages in Cavendish.

    It was great to read your story.

    Thanks for sharing,

    Caraleen London, Ontario

    Sent from my iPad

    >

  4. Sally thanks for sharing all your travels, family and crafting. I’m so pleased for you that you met your cousin, and what a surprise to find out she was right in front of you. You lead a truly interesting life, no wonder you’re so creative. Blessings to you and your family!

  5. Oh how interesting! I’m glad you got to meet your relatives. I especially liked the photos of the house, inside and out, since, I’ll probably never get over to PEI. I love all the Montgomery books but Anne’s series are my favorites! Thanks so much for sharing Salley.

  6. I am so excited for you, Salley, because of the feelings I have had in finding our Norwegian relatives! We even found that one of my cousins was married to one of my husband’s cousins! It is so amazing to travel across the world and meet relatives who look so much like one’s self. Fabulous! So happy for you!

  7. Hello Salley,

    Your trip to PEI was very exciting. Fancy being related to Dame Dora Mavor Moore and Mavor Moore. They are both well known Canadians who contributed a lot to the development of this country. We should make you an ‘Honorary Canadian”. Or, perhaps you would like to emigrate to here.

    All good wishes, Ann B. >

  8. Salley,

    Thank you so much for sharing your wonderful trip to PEI. I fell in love with Anne of Green Gables when the series was shown on PBS many years ago. What an interesting family background you have! I was so happy that you were able to meet your cousins. Surely, this was meant to be. What an exciting and memorable trip! I am so appreciative that I get to travel through you (and Polly).

    Kimberly

  9. Wow. Great story. I can see the family resemblance. I’ve listened to Anne stories on tape and love them. I appreciate your photos because now I have a clear image of the house that I was hearing about in the story. May have to listen to more.

  10. Anne of Green Gables has always been a favorite of mine, including having a doll of Anne, complete with a straw hat 🙂 You and I share that love of dolls still and I can’t believe we’ve also grown to be the elders in our families! Haha! So happy you met your cousin, how cool is that?! Happy stitching, Salley!

  11. What a wonderful family reunion with your cousin & history of theatre. I love the Anne of Green Gables books & miniseries from PBS. Thank you for sharing that the house is a tourist attraction. I have always wanted to go to Prince Edward Island. Now I know that I can go up there for a visit. I have enjoyed your adventures over the past year. Thank you for sharing your stories with us.

  12. This made my heart ache with love for Anne series! Like any other Asian fan of Ms. Montgomery’s masterpieces, I terribly wish I can visit Green Gables too, to have a more genuine depiction of her life in my head. I can only dream, though. 😭

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