One of the sweet things about September is soccer practice. There’s a handful of nice kids, enthusiastic coaches, and as a mother it’s a defined moment of time in an otherwise crazy-busy life. It’s a chance to hang out with other parents or grandparents I never meet otherwise.
The field behind Woodbury Elementary backs up against forest and wetland. At this time of year, its wall of green is just giving over in patches to intimations of russet and gold, with ferns beginning to brown around the edges. The wildness there is so overgrown, that, lying on the grass and waiting for the practice to end, I thought of Mary and her secret garden, how that rose garden was hidden for ten years behind walls covered in wildness. My child’s little elementary school has a genuine domesticity to it, with flower beds and a vegetable garden and a 100-year-old schoolhouse so finely built and well-tended it welcomes you in, as opposed to the windowless cinderblock schools of my childhood.
Looking at these things – the wild wood framed around the playing children – I suddenly realized what I hadn’t seen in Burnett’s book: the secret garden is in our hearts. Both the woods – lovely and frightening – and the school’s field with its laughing, happy children, have equal terrain in our human lives. I closed my eyes and listened to the crickets, singing what must be nearly the end of this season’s song, in the mowed grass and among the wild cucumber along the field and along the path leading into the woods.
“The girl’s… begun to be downright pretty since she’s filled out and lost her ugly little sour look. Her hair’s grown thick and healthy looking and she’s got a bright color. The glummest, ill-natured little thing she used to be and now her and Master Colin laugh together like a pair of crazy young ones. Perhaps they’re growing fat on that.”
“Perhaps they are,” said Dr. Craven. “Let them laugh.”