"Play out of doors as much as you like," he said "It’s a big place and you may go where you like and amuse yourself as you like. Is there anything you want?” as if a sudden thought had struck him. “Do you want toys, books, dolls?”
“Might I,” quavered Mary, “might I have a bit of earth?”
In her eagerness she did not realize how queer the words would sound and that they were not the ones she had meant to say. Mr. Craven looked quite startled.
“Earth!” he repeated. “What do you mean?”
“To plant seeds in–to make things grow–to see them come alive,” Mary faltered.
He gazed at her a moment and then passed his hand quickly over his eyes.
“Do you–care about gardens so much,” he said slowly.
“I didn’t know about them in India,” said Mary. “I was always ill and tired and it was too hot. I sometimes made little beds in the sand and stuck flowers in them. But here it is different.”
Mr. Craven got up and began to walk slowly across the room.
“A bit of earth,” he said to himself, and Mary thought that somehow she must have reminded him of something. When he stopped and spoke to her his dark eyes looked almost soft and kind.
“You can have as much earth as you want,” he said.“You remind me of some one else who loved the earth and things that grow. When you see a bit of earth you want," with something like a smile, “take it, child, and make it come alive.”
“May I take it from anywhere–if it’s not wanted?”
“Anywhere,” he answered. “There! You must go now, I am tired.”
Do you know this book? The Secret Garden? I loved it as a child, and this passage has always stuck with me. Mary, the sick little orphan from India, pale and skinny and much too smart for her own good, is sent to live in a big English manor with a distant relative. She had traveled about so much, been under the care of governnesses, hardly knew her parents, and for some reason, the idea of her own little garden took hold inside of her. Her own place, that she could nurture, in secret, that she could watch bloom, where she could dig and plant and tug at weeds and watch the world unfold.
Well, you see where I am going with this.
I have always felt keenly they need for "place" my place in the world. I have created that space out of wherever I am, out of necessity. Whether its an outdated dorm room in college or a tiny little house in the city or a sweltering room in the Amazon jungle. I put up my pictures. Put away my coffee mugs. And call it home.
I am feeling, now, the need for deeper roots. That need a woman of a certain age gets I suppose, when you realize suddenly that your children are the age of which your earliest memories bubble up. I have vivid memories of a little rose garden in my back yard in Wisconsin. I was maybe 7 or 8 when I first read this book and I found this little rose bush, claimed it as my own, and poked and prodded and prayed over every little bloom (no really, I did. Please God, dont let this bud die! Are you rolling your eyes? This is a sappy post, I know, I am rolling my eyes and myself, but it is the mood I am in, so, there you have it.)
And now, here I am. My oldest is just a few years away from this age. And he is definitely at the age I was of my earliest gardening memories, sneaking two inch carrots out of the dirt, eating bell peppers like apples in the summer sun.
I want them to have memories of a place. A place that we pour our love into. A place that is our little world, one we create together. A place that brings stability, warmth, memories. A place where we bloom, along with the flowers. Where all of this goodness swirls around us as we bake and laugh and sing and learn.
And so, universe, this is what I ask for, a bit of earth to take for myself, and to make it come alive. Please?