I was at a book swap just a few days ago. Everyone brought their favorite books and wrote a note on the cover about why they loved it so much. Of course I brought Fanny's Dream by Caralyn Buehner. The lady picked up my book and started reading the note. Just sitting there listening to her, I started crying. In a room full of grown ladies. (I'll show you what I wrote in just a second!)
Then today I started writing a caption for my instagram post about why I love Fanny's Dream... and quickly realized I was going to run out of characters. So.... this blog was born! A space where I can tell you everything that's really in my heart about this book. And other books. But first- this book, and why Fanny's Dream is really MY dream.
First let me give you the quickest review of it ever:
Fanny is a Cinderella character set on a rural farm. She waits for a fairy godmother who never comes and ends up marrying her old friend from down the road. They build a life together of hard work, love, sweat, tears, and constantly building, repairing, and renewing dreams. It's not fake. It's real life. Their house burns down, they slop the pigs, and the till the land. After her third child her fairy godmother unexpectedly shows up late, willing to make all her original dreams come true. And Fanny refuses, because she has grown to prefer the life she built by herself with the people she really loves and who really love her.
My first exposure to this book was when my aunt Ralphie (@simplyonpurpose) read it to me while babysitting me. I thought it was a fun new silly Cinderella story, and there were hidden animals on every page of the illustrations, so that makes it just wonderful for a 6 year old.
(On this page there's a pig in the clouds, a cat outline on the mountain, and a dinosaur shaped shadow. So fun!)
Then when Ralphie's husband came back from serving a volunteer mission and they prepared to get married, she read this book across the pulpit in a church service. 1. I didn't know you were allowed to do that, and 2. I always wondered why an adult would read a children's book like this to other adults. I had a hint that there was something about this I wasn't quite getting, but I didn't know what it was.
Fast forward 12 years. I was in love with and dating my eventual future husband, Bradley. We were middle school sweethearts and people kept trying to convince us that childhood romances never work out. "You can never marry the neighbor boy from down the road." I found this book on an old bookshelf, read it, and started bawling. Who were they to tell me what kind of future I could or couldn't build for myself? "But you never know who you'll meet in college. There may be someone out there better for you." To me, that was the equivalent of waiting until the magical ball to meet the mayor's son like Fanny was originally hoping for. We can hope and wonder, but real happiness comes from committing to work it out with someone ordinary whom we choose to love. With hard work and determination, I knew I could find love where I chose to find it, like Fanny did. I was determined to marry Bradley. I wanted an ordinary Heber who loved me, like Fanny did.
Then Bradley served a 2 year volunteer mission abroad in Spain. I missed him so much. Every night before bed, I read Fanny's Dream to myself. Yep, a college student read a children's book every. single. day. That's how much this book meant to me. All my dreams were inside its pages. I would cry and fall asleep with the book against my chest.
Two years later Bradley returned home. We rekindled our love. After two months of being reunited, I gifted Fanny's Dream to him. He opened it up and said, "A kids' book?" I had written this note on the inside cover.
One day later he secretly planned to go ring shopping. And the next week he proposed. Coincidence???
Two years into marriage I shared in my elementary education literacy college course that this was my favorite children's book. My professor of library science looked at me and smiled. "I would argue that's not a children's book. Just because it has fun pictures doesn't mean the message is for kids. I think it's for adults." I knew she was right.
I still hold this book so dear to me. I read it and smile. We have out first son now. We've had our ups, our down. Our cracking nuts by the fire moments and our sweating in the pig trough moments and house burning down moments.
And I can echo what Fanny says at the end. If my fairy godmother ever shows up and offers me a perfect prince charming with a palace and a dozen horses, I'll say what Fanny says, "not." And I'll go back inside to my friend Bradley and my son Brody.
I hope this book touches your heart like it does mine.
(Here's what I wrote on my note at the book exchange).