Frances Hodgson Burnett’s, The Secret Garden is one of the most magical full-sense spring experiences. You will never look at nature and her healing powers the same again.
Here is just one little morsel to taste:
“A sudden thought made her scramble to her feet,
“I can’t wait! I am going to see the garden!”
…She unchained and unbolted and unlocked and when the door was open she sprang across the step with one bound, and there she was standing on the grass, which seemed to have turned green, with the sun pouring down on her and warm sweet wafts about her and the fluting and twittering and singing coming from every bush and tree. She clasped her hands for pure joy and looked up in the sky and it was so blue and pink and pearly and white and flooded with springtime light and she felt as if she must flute and sing aloud herself and knew that thrushes and robins and skylarks could not possibly help it. She ran around the shrubs and paths towards the secret garden.
“It is all different already,” she said. “The grass is greener and things are sticking up everywhere and things are uncurling and green buds on leaves are showing…”
…When she had reached the place where the door bid itself under the ivy…and she pushed the door open…
“Oh Dicken! Dickon!” she cried out. “How could you get here so early! How could you! The sun has only just got up!”
“He got up himself, laughing and glowing, and tousled; his eyes like a bit of the sky.
“Eh!” he said. “I was up long before him. How could I have stayed abed! Th’ world’s all fair begun again this mornin’, it has. An’ it’s workin’ and hummun’ and’ scratchin’ an’ pipin’ and’ nest-building’ an breathin’ out scents, till you’ve got to be out in it ‘stead o’ lyin’ on your back. When th’ sun did jump up, th’ mor went mad for joy, an’ I was in the midst of th’ heather, an’ I run like mad myself, shoutin’ an’ singing’. An’ I come straight here. I couldn’t have stayed away. Why, th’ garden was lyin’ here waitin’!” pg. 155-157
We had just bought a new home after living in a rental for a long time. We were just a few months from celebrating the year mark of the San Fernando earthquake and finally were getting our children to sleep back in their own bedrooms again. The move became a symbol of a fresh beginning of safety and new happy memories to come. We had the new home owner’s excitement and felt we finally found our ”place” we could raise our family in Simi Valley. We had christened the home by having a new baby two weeks prior to moving in. We were getting to know our neighbors and our children were meeting new friends and getting used to new schools even though we only moved across town. Our home had a brand new play room that any age child could “hang out” in and make their childhood messes, but our tween-age daughter would always go to her new friend’s house instead.
The homes surrounding the development were older and a bit more humble and most of the families were people working hard to make ends meet. We would often keep inviting our daughter to bring her new friends home to our new house but they would rarely come, and if they did they would never stay more than a few minutes; especially when our Dad was home. I wished they would feel welcome but they never chose to. The friends were sisters whose mother was the prime bread winner for their grandparents and the two girls. The grandparents knew little English. We found out later that their father had been abusive and was nowhere to be found.
Closer to Christmas my daughter got in the car very concerned. One of the daughters had privately heard a conversation between her mother and grandparents. They had only $20 in their bank account. This girl shared this information with my daughter.
My daughter is a crusader. She always has been. If there is a good cause to stand for, she zestfully will take a stand! (Once she stole a puppy, because the owner hit it in front of us…that is a whole other story…) I could see the crusader fire glowing in her eyes.
“MOM! We have to do something.”
I am familiar with those words from this child. I have heard them before. Once that passion begins to flow it is like holding rushing water in your hands. But often child innocence does not quite understand adult protocol and proper boundaries; like the puppy! I knew this family was very proud and would be embarrassed if we showed up with a box of gifts, food, and money. And we had just purchased a house so our own Christmas was going to be slim.
“MAH-M! We have to give them some money for Christmas!”
Even though it was difficult for her to wait, we decided the best person to discuss this dilemma with would be our daddy since he is very wise; especially when it comes to money issues. But he did not get home until after 7:30. So she had to wait…and waiting is not what crusaders do.
So, she did what she always does.
She did not wait!
She grabbed her most loyal devotees; her two little brothers, at the time (eventually she got four) and rallied them to her cause. They came running with their shoe boxes and piggy banks and dumped money and tickets out on her bed. (She had established personal services through ticket exchanges with her siblings so along with the coins were those earned tickets they could redeem for small prizes, gum and candy) She dumped out her own stash of cash from past lemonade stands, car washes, and the scrimpy allowance we gave for emptying the dishwasher and taking out the trash. Besides a crusader, she is extremely thrifty. The children were pleasantly surprised that it all amounted to $33.61; a small fortune for them. All three stared at the pile of money. Then the little boys quickly stuffed their earned tickets back into their savings accounts before their sister decided they needed to redeem them now too.
“Now how should we get this money to them?” She said out loud to her brothers. The little army discussed different stealthy secret Santa moves. I could hear giggling from her bedroom while nursing the baby. Waiting was difficult now that the solution was found.
Later, Daddy came home. The problem assessed. Daddy offered to match the amount the children came up with to make the sum total of a whopping $67.22!” That felt like a small fortune to the children. They were thrilled. Then as a family we discussed the best way to give it to the family and decided that they would not accept it if we just handed them an envelope so we decided to go through our church minister.
We never heard about what happened after we gave the money to our minister to distribute. We only knew that it had been done.
Even though the piggy banks were dry, Christmas was different.
It felt so good being settled in our new home we loved so much.
But it was definitely more…
Thank God for crusaders for good…
especially when they are your own children!
I think the clock said 2:10 a.m. but my eyes were blurry from lack of sleep. I had not slept much for many nights. My baby wasn’t fussy, just got his days and nights mixed up and in the dim of the night light you could see his bright eyes wide awake and his hands and feet were moving in the air.
“Okay, little one, let’s get up and let daddy sleep.”
I walked into the family room and bent down to switch on the Christmas tree lights. I sat curled up on the couch nuzzled in blankets cuddling my little boy. I whispered to him and he turned towards the sound. He was still so new.
I caressed his little head and began to sing “Silent Night.”
That is when I felt it.
It was a connective current to all mothers, but one in particular so long ago on that first Christmas night. I knew what she felt.
I knew the discomfort of a belly growing and stretching before a little one comes.
The pains of birth are like no other.
But the joy of birth is fullness hard to describe.
I sang and cuddled my baby close.
Jesus belonged to Mary for just a short while.
Baby’s do that.
They don’t last long.
But tonight it was two mother’s lovin’ on our baby boys.
The Crèche exhibit was spectacular. People reverently wandered down the aisles admiring the vast collection of delicately created manger scenes. Crèches created from Israeli woodcarvings to the islands of Polynesia and every other type of material you could think of in between. There were stuffed ones, hanging ones, cookie ones, glass ones, sequenced ones, huge ones, ones so tiny you needed a magnifying glass to look. Twinkly Lights were strung over the array of fabrics draped over the display tables. Soft music played in the background.
And I was in the basement. As elegant as it was upstairs, I had the very best spot. I had spent many nights in my own basement asked to paint a simple manger scene that was child size. The idea was for people to dress up and get their photos taken inside the scene. If you wanted to be the Mary, you could take the Mary out and you would be in a set manger scene. If you had a group you could put the entire group in. I made costumes and props. There was a spot light placed on it. The light created a soft glow on the baby Jesus while the shadows and sparkles of the cardboard characters stood and looked. It was magical.
But the mood was not always how I wished. It would get hectic as families, teenagers, and some grandparents would come to dress up and get inside the manger scene to have their photos taken.
On the first evening an older woman came down to the basement and watched for a time. I talked to her briefly, but only to ask if she wanted to participate. She said no; watched a little longer then left.
The last evening she came back to the basement. When there was a break in the crowd she handed me a tissue wrapped gift. I asked her what this was for and that I could not accept a gift. She said that she wanted to give me something because she loved this part of the exhibit best. And then she left. I was happy she liked it but was surprised after helping with the display of hundreds upstairs that this one was the one that spoke to her.
When the last group had gone and I finished folding the costumes for the night, then I opened the gift. Inside her gift was a package of instant microwave popcorn.
That is what it was…