Strychnine in the Well

I don’t know how many of you grew up reading Anne of Green Gables, but I did.  I loved those books and movies when I was a kid – ok, actually, I still do!  I am reading “Rilla of Ingleside” right now in fact!  But I digress… In “Anne of Green Gables,” in the very first chapter, we find this conversation between Mrs. Rachel Lynde and Marilla Cuthbert. Keep in mind as you read that this was written in 1908, more than 100 years ago (and I am sharing this for information purposes only)!


She (Marilla) had expected Mrs. Rachel up; she had known that the sight of Matthew jaunting off so unaccountably would be too much for her neighbor’s curiosity.

“Oh, no, I’m quite well although I had a bad headache yesterday,” she said. “Matthew went to Bright River. We’re getting a little boy from an orphan asylum in Nova Scotia and he’s coming on the train tonight.”

If Marilla had said that Matthew had gone to Bright River to meet a kangaroo from Australia Mrs. Rachel could not have been more astonished. She was actually stricken dumb for five seconds. It was unsupposable that Marilla was making fun of her, but Mrs. Rachel was almost forced to suppose it.

“Are you in earnest, Marilla?” she demanded when voice returned to her.

“Yes, of course,” said Marilla, as if getting boys from orphan asylums in Nova Scotia were part of the usual spring work on any well-regulated Avonlea farm instead of being an unheard of innovation.

Mrs. Rachel felt that she had received a severe mental jolt. She thought in exclamation points. A boy! Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert of all people adopting a boy! From an orphan asylum! Well, the world was certainly turning upside down! She would be surprised at nothing after this! Nothing!

“What on earth put such a notion into your head?” she demanded disapprovingly.


Now, it’s 2015, and we are blessed to live in a society where education is valued and being “different” is not as different as it used to be.  And yet it has been our experience that people sometimes react to our adoption news exactly as Mrs. Rachel Lynde did over 100 years ago – with shock and/or disapproval.  It strikes me as very odd!  When a recent friend of mine announced that she was expecting, I gave her a hug and wished her all the happiness in the world – I didn’t question why she decided to become pregnant.  Furthermore, I did not start telling her scary stories about pregnancies and child-raising gone wrong, or caution her to plan for the worst.  I continue with Mrs. Rachel Lynde…


Mrs. Rachel prided herself on always speaking her mind; she proceeded to speak it now, having adjusted her mental attitude to this amazing piece of news.

“Well, Marilla, I’ll just tell you plain that I think you’re doing a mighty foolish thing—a risky thing, that’s what. You don’t know what you’re getting. You’re bringing a strange child into your house and home and you don’t know a single thing about him nor what his disposition is like nor what sort of parents he had nor how he’s likely to turn out. Why, it was only last week I read in the paper how a man and his wife up west of the Island took a boy out of an orphan asylum and he set fire to the house at night—set it ON PURPOSE, Marilla—and nearly burnt them to a crisp in their beds. And I know another case where an adopted boy used to suck the eggs—they couldn’t break him of it. If you had asked my advice in the matter—which you didn’t do, Marilla—I’d have said for mercy’s sake not to think of such a thing, that’s what.”

(She continues…)

“Well, I hope it will turn out all right,” said Mrs. Rachel in a tone that plainly indicated her painful doubts. “Only don’t say I didn’t warn you if he burns Green Gables down or puts strychnine in the well—I heard of a case over in New Brunswick where an orphan asylum child did that and the whole family died in fearful agonies. Only, it was a girl in that instance.”


Ha!  I always laughed at these cautions of Mrs. Lynde’s – she was such a cranky lady!  But really, they aren’t much different than the stories we keep getting told, and the warnings we keep on receiving.

Am I naive enough to think that the parenting journey that we’ve chosen is going to be perfect and without challenges?  Ha!  Goodness no!  We have gone through the required educational classes in substance use and abuse, trauma, mental health issues, attachment disorders, and health issues.  We have read every story and watched every movie we can get our hands on.  We have traded stories with many parents of adopted children.  We have spent time in discussion with a counselor trained in adoption issues. We have prepared ourselves in every way imaginable, and we know that there is much that we will just have to learn as we move forward.  Believe me when I say that I know the horrors out there that these kids have experienced, and I am still 100% sure that I want to adopt!!!

I am so excited to share our news with others, and so tired of defending our decision.  I am tired of pointing out that planning a biological child, or adopting an infant, is no guarantee that that child will not struggle in life.  And I’m tired of pointing out that, like with Anne of Green Gables, the fact that adoption occurred later in life does not mean that disaster will follow.

When we share our news, what I would love is a hug and some excitement!  Some encouragement!  A prayer!  A squeal!  A dance!  Get the idea?  Every time I get an email or message of support, I feel so blessed and encouraged!  And we need more of that, just like any parent out there:)  So bring it on!!!


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