To All the Men I’ve Loved Before

In the early 1980s singers Willie Nelson and Julio Iglesias recorded “To All the Girls I’ve Loved Before,” a song that paid homage to the many, many women they loved and lost (or dumped) over the courses of their lives.

I’ll say straight up, I’m not a fan of the song; but for some reason, it’s been stuck in my head for the last 48 hours. So I decided, if I can’t get the song out of my mind, I might as well repurpose it in a way that makes sense to me.

So, I’m taking a page from Willie and Julio’s book, and presenting to you a list all the book heart-throbs I once loved.

My First Love was Bert Bobbsey, oldest of the two sets of twins in the Bobbsey family household.

 

Now that I think back on it, Bert was really more of an admired older brother than a crush, but I thoroughly hero-worshipped him until I found . . .

My second crush, Frank Hardy. Level-headed, smart, and brave, he was the hero of more than one thrilling book adventure in my grade-school years.

Plus, he was handsome and a sharp dresser. I’ve loved pull-over sweaters on men ever since.

Then, in more or less chronological order, there was:

Laurie from Little Women. Theodore “Laurie” Laurence set the standard for me when it came to the man I thought I’d like to fall in love with.

Laurie and Amy March in an illustration from my 1939 edition of Little Women.

He was smart, rich, playful, good at keeping secrets, and heart-throbbingly loyal. I was a little troubled to see how quickly he transferred his affections from Jo to Amy, but since everyone in the book ended up happy (with the sad exception of Beth, of course), I was willing to overlook Laurie’s change of allegiance.

Gilbert Blythe.
I have the full collection of Anne of Green Gables books, as well as the beautifully filmed mini-series by Sullivan Productions (I never get tired of watching it!). One reason I love the series so much is Gilbert Blythe.

Gilbert was introduced in the book as a . . .

Tall boy with curly brown hair, roguish hazel eyes and a mouth twisted into a teasing smile.

From the moment he first set eyes on Anne, and he winked at her, you knew he liked her. He really liked her.

For me, the entire Anne series is as much about Anne and Gilbert growing up together and recognizing their feelings for each other, as it is about Anne Shirley coming of age. Yes, she’s the main character in the books, but I still get misty-eyed when I read the scene where Gilbert—after receiving Anne’s rejections again and again—proposes marriage to her for a second time:

“I have a dream,” he said, slowly. “I persist in dreaming it, although it has often seemed to me that it could never come true. I dream of a home with a hearth-fire in it, a cat and dog, the footsteps of friends—and you!”

Anne wanted to speak but she could find no words. Happiness was breaking over her like a wave. It almost frightened her.

“I asked you a question over two years ago, Anne. If I ask it again today, will you give me a different answer?”

Merddyn Gryffydd.
Richard Llewellyn’s 1939 novel How Green was My Valley chronicled the life of Huw Morgan as he grew to manhood in a Welsh mining town. It’s been my all-time favorite novel since I first read it when I was 12. There are many memorable scenes in the book, but for me, some of the most poignant and beautifully written moments are between Huw’s older sister Angharad (pronounced an-HAR-ad) and the Reverend Mr. Gruffydd (pronounced Griffith).

It’s clear that Angharad is in love with him, but does he love her in return?

Mr. Gruffydd is a gentle, well-spoken, man of God, who daily demonstrates his high ideals. When he discovers that a rich young man has been courting Angharad, the woman he loves, he decides to put his own feelings aside so she can have a better life than the one he can offer:

“I am afraid that you will go threadbare all your life. That you and me will have to depend upon the charity of others for most of our good meals, and on my living for enough to exist. Do you think I want to see the white come into your hair twenty years before its time? Shall we see our children growing up in the cast-off clothing of others? Shall we thank God for parenthood in a house full of bits and presents that had outlived their use to the givers? No, Angharad. I am a man. I can bear with such a life for the sake of my work. But I think I would start to kill if I saw it having an effect on you.”

I loved Mr. Gruffydd for trying so hard to do the right thing by the woman he loved, yet getting it so wrong.

Those weren’t all my book boyfriends, but they were the ones that made impressions on me at a young age. As I grew older, I fell in love with Gabriel Oak (Far from the Madding Crowd), Sidney Carton (A Tale of Two Cities), and Fitzwilliam Darcy (Pride and Prejudice).

But Bert, Frank, Laurie, Gilbert and Mr. Gryffydd have a very special place in my heart.

How about you? Did you ever have a crush on a fictional character? I’d love to know who! 

My Movie Count-down to Christmas

Christmas is now less than a week away and I’m happily in the full spirit of Christmas. Like many, many (many!) people, Christmas is my favorite time of the year.

My house is decorated, the weather has taken on a nice nip of cold air, and I just finished the last of my holiday shopping.

I’ve deposited toys, cash, and canned goods in the appropriate donation bins and red kettles around town.

My Christmas tree is glowing with ornaments and lights, my gifts to others are wrapped and arranged under said tree, and my crèche is lovingly positioned in a place of honor in the living room.

Everything’s in order for Christmas day. There’s just one more task left . . . and it’s one of my family’s favorite traditions.

In the last days before Christmas, we gather every evening to make popcorn, arrange bowls of chips and dips, brew tea, and pour hot cocoa, all in preparation for watching our favorite Christmas movies together as a family.

And not just any Christmas movies. In my house, it’s all about tradition, and there’s an order to it all.

So here’s the countdown of Christmas movies my family and I will be watching for the next few nights:

Die HardDecember 20: Die Hard

Oh, yes, Die Hard is a Christmas movie, a gift for the guys in your family. It has plenty of alpha-male shoot-em-up action, a healthy dose of humor, and a few ho-ho-ho’s.

An added bonus: it puts my guys in the right mood to handle the sentimentality of the remaining movies we’ll be watching.

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Meet Me in St LouisDecember 21: Meet Me in St. Louis

Now we’re heading down the more traditional Christmas movie track. Meet Me in St. Louis stars Judy Garland as a young woman growing up at the turn of the 20th Century. It’s a beautiful movie, from sets to costumes to characters, and the singing . . . well, I did use the magic words, “Judy Garland.” I tear up every year watching her sing “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” to her little sister, played by Margaret O’Brien.

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June Allyson_Little WomenDecember 22: Little Women

I’ve read this beloved book many times since I first read it as a child. From the opening line—“Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents”—the story chronicles the lives and loves of the four March sisters, and their devotion to each other through hardship and joy.

This year we’re watching the 1949 version starring June Allyson as Jo March, which is one of my favorites. The other version I love is the 1994 movie starring Winona Ryder in the same role. We’ll watch that version next year (we alternate each year between the two) and I’ll have a big box of Kleenex by my side.

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Holiday InnDecember 23: Holiday Inn

This 1942 holiday classic used to run on television every year on Christmas Eve. My entire family sat down to watch it because it was just so much fun. It was my first introduction at a young age to the magic of a Fred Astaire’s dancing . The firecracker scene is one of his best and most entertaining dance sequences ever.

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Miracle on 34th StreetDecember 24: Miracle on 34th Street

Let’s be clear: I’m not talking about some fancy-shmancy color version. I’m talking about the classic, black-and-white version of Miracle on 34th Street that originally hit theaters in 1947. This movie doesn’t need to be updated or colorized; it’s perfect just as it is.

My recommendation: don’t watch this movie on television with commercial breaks; they cut too much of the movie out to fit the broadcast time slot. Find a digitized, black-and-white version on DVD, pop it in your player, sit back with a cup of hot cocoa, and enjoy this story about believing in the magic of Christmas and the hopefulness of the human spirit.

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White Christmas 1954December 25: White Christmas

For me White Christmas is the best of the best Christmas movies, so it’s no wonder our family gives it the place of honor: a viewing on Christmas night. Since its release in 1954, four generations of my family have viewed and enjoyed this fun, inspiring, and charming movie. After a busy day of attending church services, opening presents, and visiting friends and family, it’s nice to gather in the evening, wearing the new jammies Santa brought, and cuddling under the comfy new throws we received as gifts, to watch White Christmas. Every year we look forward to seeing the “Sisters” routine—we know it by heart, of course, but we laugh each year as if we were seeing it for the first time. I’m sure this year will be no exception.

So there you have it. Now you know how my family and I will be spending the remaining evenings leading up to Christmas.

What about you? Do you have Christmas traditions you and your family enjoy in the days leading up to Christmas? Leave a comment below to share!