It's been several years since I've read the Pat books. From the looks of things, I'm not the only person spending time with her this year for this reading challenge. I have only vague recollections of my first reading.
If you haven't yet met Pat Gardiner, we are introduced to her in Pat of Silver Bush when she is a ripe seven years of age. Her character is much like Anne's (and, in fact, all of Montgomery's heroines) in that she loves being outdoors, loves nature and all things which are beautiful. I don't think Montgomery could help but make her characters love beauty as she herself clearly did.
Pat feels things very deeply. Any tragedy upsets her greatly. Above all though, she hates change. She loathes and despises the fact that people grow up, get married, change courses and, yes, die. Anything she loves, she loves deeply. As Judy Plum, the family housekeeper and second mother to Pat, says in describing Pat:
"She'll love folks . . . and things . . . better than most . . . and it will give her great delight. But they'll hurt her more too. 'Tis the way of the fairy gift and ye have to take the bad wid the good."
Pat is most especially fond of her home - Silver Bush.
"Oh, I've got such a lovely home," breathed Pat, clasping her hands. "It's such a friendly house. Nobody . . . nobody has such a lovely home. I'd just like to hug it."
Pat's love of her home is the running theme of both of the Pat books. She is rather obsessed with her family home, declaring throughout the books that she will never marry because then she would have to leave Silver Bush. She thinks the world of the house and all of the people in it and latches onto it in a way that I'm sure not too many of us could properly understand.
There are fun characters in this book. Specifically, there is Judy Plum. Judy came to work for the Gardiner family when Pat's father was bringing his bride home. She is more active in the home than Mrs. Gardiner is, taking care of the laundry, the chickens, the kitchen, general upkeep of the home and the almost exclusive raising of young Pat, who is her particular favorite. Judy hails from Ireland and speaks with a thick Irish brogue. Reading her portions of the conversation can take a little bit of getting use to as Montgomery writes out what she is saying in a phonetically correct way. Eventually though you catch on, her conversation flows, and you can hear her voice in your head. I love her character! She is forever telling the kids tall tales and feeding them "leedle bites" of food before bedtime.
Secondly, there is Jingle - Pat's boyhood chum. His proper name is Hilary Gordon but he goes by Jingle as that is what his mother called him as a baby. Hilary is being raised by an aunt and uncle who are rather stingy with their affections. He finds acceptance and friendship in the Gardiner family and is more or less Pat's best friend.
Pat of Silver Bush covers roughly seven to eight years of Pat's life, bringing us through her time at Queen's where she studies to become a teacher. (Book two in the Pat series - Mistress Pat - takes us into Pat's twenties and highlights her early adult years.)
At the risk of causing anyone to question my loyalty to Anne, I have to confess that I . . . really, really . . . liked Pat. A lot. I think it is because the focus of Pat is her house. I don't adore my house like Pat adores Silver Bush but I do care for my house a great, great deal. When I was growing up we lived in rental houses and I always dreamed of owning a house and being able to paint the walls any color I liked and taking interest in all of the decorations within it, etc. I looked forward to the day when I would be all grown up with a home of my own to love and take ownership of. Well, when Jonathan and I got married we were granted a rather unique and amazing opportunity to build a house for ourselves. I confess that I insisted it had to be a house with character. Modern houses are all alike to me. Each one seems built just like the one next to it, with very little imagination attached. There are no picture windows or arched doorways or tiny rooms cut into funny shapes to make them unique anymore. We were walking through our new "neighborhood" and I spied a house that looked like a barn. I was all for doing something like that but Jonathan was strangely opposed to the idea of living in a barn. (!?) We did, however, agree on the idea of a log home and so that is what we have. Here is a picture of our house from a few weeks ago, after it snowed:
And here the view from my kitchen/dining room window:
I love, love, love my home! I never get tired of looking at it and I have yet to get over the novelty of it - even though we've lived here for about four years now. I still look up at the log beams across the living room and smile. I love being surrounded by wood. It doesn't look like any other house I know (even other log homes, each of which I think are really cool) and it has all the character I ever dreamed of. I never want to move. (I also realize that's a risky thing to say. But that's another topic which I'll address when discussing Mistress Pat!)
All that to explain, I "get" Pat's love of her house -- her home. She loves its nooks and crannies. She loves the personal touches and its unique design. She loves where it is situated and how it looks alive when set against a night sky, when all of the windows are lit up. Just like I love driving up to the top of my driveway at night and seeing the windows of my home lit up. It's gorgeous and I am happy to live here.
In reading Pat, I can read along and sympathize with her feelings. Anne loves beauty too, and she loves Green Gables, but not as passionately as Pat loves Silver Bush. Anne values family more and I appreciate that, separately. Pat stands out by loving things - a thing, specifically. While that attitude has its fair share of easy-to-identify problems, I also think it is a good thing to love home. Your four walls - and my four walls - aren't just walls. They are places where we build our own family histories - making mountains of memories. We laugh together and we cry with one another. We have our good days and our bad days, true, but we have them together and that's what makes it so wonderful. Many homes are broken and I acknowledge that. However, I'm specifically address homes that are healthy and thriving at this time. As Jingle demonstrates, homes full of warmth and family and laughter are attractive and will draw hurting souls to them. And it is a tremendous blessing to live in a home - and create a home - that is healthy and alive and breeds love and good fellowship.
I'll end with this song, which has long been a favorite of mine. I heard it first as a teen and I've listened to it thousands of times. It has always filled me with a feeling of home and belonging. I love it. If there were ever a theme for Pat of Silver Bush this song is it! Give a listen?