Wednesday, July 6, 2016

"It's Mother"

Learning from The Secret Garden
(If you haven’t read the book, please don’t read this, go read that instead!)

In the Garden

We were listening to The Secret Garden by Francis Hodgson Burnett on the drive home:

"Who is coming in here?" he [Collin] said quickly. "Who is it?"
The door in the wall had been pushed gently open and a woman had entered. She had come in with the last line of their song and she had stood still listening and looking at them. With the ivy behind her, the sunlight drifting through the trees and dappling her long blue cloak, and her nice fresh face smiling across the greenery she was rather like a softly colored illustration in one of Colin's books. She had wonderful affectionate eyes which seemed to take everything in—all of them, even Ben Weatherstaff and the "creatures" and every flower that was in bloom. Unexpectedly as she had appeared, not one of them felt that she was an intruder at all. Dickon's eyes lighted like lamps.
"It's Mother—that's who it is!" he cried and he went across the grass at a run…

Susan Sowerby went round their garden with them and was told the whole story of it and shown every bush and tree which had come alive. Colin walked on one side of her and Mary on the other. Each of them kept looking up at her comfortable rosy face, secretly curious about the delightful feeling she gave them—a sort of warm, supported feeling…”

And that’s were I felt that little choking feeling in my throat, the feeling of a sudden rush of emotion. 

“It’s mother” 

The power and influence and wonder of what it means to be “mother” suddenly washed over me as I listened to the description of this woman. The power of one woman to shape lives. 

In the day to day “drudgery” (except that of course we shouldn't think of it as drudgery I know) that motherhood can become- the washing of the constant stream of clothes, the preparation & clean up of meals (plus snacks so that’s like 10 meals a day right?), the constant requests, decision making, sibling squabbles, etc. it’s so hard to remember the incredible importance of what we are doing. But this children’s book helped me remember.

A few minutes later the little choke of emotion threatened to turn into an all out flood...

“Susan Sowerby got up at last to return to the house… It was time for Colin to be wheeled back also. But before he got into his chair he stood quite close to Susan and fixed his eyes on her with a kind of bewildered adoration and he suddenly caught hold of the fold of her blue cloak and held it fast.
"You are just what I—what I wanted," he said. "I wish you were my mother—as well as Dickon’s!""

“You are just what I wanted.”

Our children may not think of it, but if they did isn’t that what they'd say? If they had the wisdom and understanding of the world wouldn’t they want us, just us, in all our imperfections?

Susan Sowerby, plain old Yorkshire, mother of 12 (12!!!) with very little, if any, formal education…I never saw it before. I’ve read this book so many times and I never saw who the true hero, rather heroin is until today.
“It’s Mother”!!!

That’s when I was glad for my sunglasses to hide the tears so I didn’t need to explain to the kid’s just then.

Without Susan Sowerby (why the author gave this great literary woman a name that starts with “sour” I do not know, except maybe to show that the greatest among us don’t necessarily have great sounding names), without her this story would not have gone well. This character is seen herself so little in the dialogue that she’s not even included in the movie adaptations! (at least not the ones I’ve seen). Yet without her who would have mentioned to Lord Craven that he should see Mary and let her run in the gardens free of a governess so that she could discover the great Secret? What motivation would Mary have had for going out of doors if dirt poor Mrs. Sowerby didn’t scrape the money together to buy the child a skipping rope? Would Dickon have been the boy he was and played so great a part if Susan had not been his mother? She was such a woman that even Lord Craven listened to her advice, and the housekeeper of the great house listened to her and considered her a friend. How would the children have kept their secret and grown so healthy without the simple, healthy food Susan helped provide? And who but that simple, wise woman would have had the boldness to write the letter that prompted Lord Craven to come home?
What a powerful part she played. So powerful that it’s hardly noticed. It was just her few wise words and thoughtful actions that shaped the lives of so many.

I know, it’s only children’s literature, but it’s great literature. And this part is true. Mothers are powerful and beautiful and we cannot forget. We cannot forget our influence and our importance. We cannot grow weary of the day-to-day “drudgery” (I know I have to find a better word).

I want to be a “Susan Sowerby”. 
I want to be the mother my children always wanted.
I’m humbled, overwhelmed and so thankful to be


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