Posts Tagged ‘Frances Hodgson Burnett’

For the past several years, someone has left flowers on my front porch steps on Mother’s Day.  Not bouquets in vases but flowers in pots, ready to be planted.  Different kinds each year, but always flowers.  I think it started the first Mother’s Day after Jonah went away.

This year on Mother’s Day I returned from visiting Jonah with my mom and saw the flowers there again, as always – a pot of bleeding hearts this time with a card from Boo, the handwriting unrecognizable (deliberately, I presume).

Always the flowers make my day.  A magician has come, I think to myself.  Someone who knows I drive to visit Jonah every Sunday.  Someone who wishes to remain anonymous…who knows my Mother’s Days are never all that happy since Jonah left, no matter what the day is like.

I used to think of all the possible magicians, trying to identify who in my life could possibly be that dedicated to this.  To me.  Since the flowers started coming, they have never stopped.  Year after year – for 6 or 7 years now without fail, I am visited by a magician who places flowers on my steps and slips away.  This simple, loving, ever-faithful gesture touches my heart more than I can say.

Of course I plant the flowers every year, usually a week or so after I get them.  I like to keep them inside for a while first, so I can look at them, smile, and think about whomever gave them to me – enjoying the mystery of the magician’s annual appearance.

This year, it finally occurred to me: the magician probably reads my blog.  How else would they be certain I’m not home when they arrive every Mother’s Day?  How else would they know I call Jonah Boo? After all, I rarely do so outside this blog.  The already small field of possible magicians narrows.  But I respect their desire to remain anonymous, and I do not intend to ferret them out.

Every year, though, I find myself wishing I could thank the magician.  And now that I am pretty sure they read this blog, I can.

In a “cosmic coincidence” kind of way, this is remarkably similar to a fictional scenario I love and have read many, many times:  the story of Sara Crewe, my all-time favorite heroine in my all-time favorite book, A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett.

At one point in our heroine’s story, she is poor, hungry and living in the dingy attic of a fancy girls’ boarding school.  One day she wakes up to find the attic suddenly and inexplicably transformed with little folding chairs, blankets and pillows, books, steaming tea and little sandwiches set up on a little table, a fire in the long-unused fireplace, and beautiful tapestries on the walls.  Sara is astounded.

Every day the magician, for that is what she calls him, brings more and more little pleasant things to make her happy.  She loves the magic of it and abandons herself happily to the mystery as well, enjoying all that is brought to make her sorrow-filled servant life happier.  But one thing nags at her, and she relates this to Becky, her fellow scullery maid:

“I can’t help thinking about my friend,” Sara explained. “If he wants to keep himself a secret, it would be rude to try and find out who he is. But I do so want him to know how thankful I am to him—and how happy he has made me. Anyone who is kind wants to know when people have been made happy. They care for that more than for being thanked. I wish—I do wish—”

She stopped short because her eyes at that instant fell upon something standing on a table in a corner. It was something she had found in the room when she came up to it only two days before. It was a little writing-case fitted with paper and envelopes and pens and ink.

“Oh,” she exclaimed, “why did I not think of that before?”

She rose and went to the corner and brought the case back to the fire.

“I can write to him,” she said joyfully, “and leave it on the table. Then perhaps the person who takes the things away will take it, too. I won’t ask him anything. He won’t mind my thanking him, I feel sure.”

So she wrote a note. This is what she said:

I hope you will not think it is impolite that I should write this note to you when you wish to keep yourself a secret. Please believe I do not mean to be impolite or try to find out anything at all; only I want to thank you for being so kind to me—so heavenly kind—and making everything like a fairy story. I am so grateful to you, and I am so happy—I used to be so lonely and cold and hungry, and now—oh, just think what you have done for me! Please let me say just these words. It seems as if I OUGHT to say them. THANK you—THANK you—THANK you!


The next morning she left this on the little table, and in the evening it had been taken away with the other things; so she knew the Magician had received it, and she was happier for the thought.

And so, just like Sara, I get to say:

Thank you for being so kind to me—so heavenly kind—and making everything like a fairy story.  THANK you—THANK you—THANK you!

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I love that phrase:  “I should say.”   I hear it in a stuffy, 18th century, crisp British accent, complete with Mr. Carlyle pulling a kerchief from the lace wristlet of his velvet coat mid-quote.   Do you know who Thomas Carlyle is?  It’s okay if you don’t.  He’s but a click away.

The weird thing about me coming across this quote is Mr. Thomas Carlyle wrote The French Revolution:  A History, which was the favourite book of protagonist Sara Crewe in Frances Hodgson Burnett’s children’s book A Little Princess which is my favourite book.  So that makes me want to read this enormous 3-volume account of the French Revolution (while remaining largely ignorant of our own right here in the U.S.)  I feel the need to learn more history.  All kinds of history.

My father and I went on a ride to Massachusetts today and I “interviewed” him from a book I’d bought, Conversations with my Father, which asked questions and left blanks so you could create your own memory book.  What was your first memory?  What were your grandparents like?  Did you have a nickname when you were young?

So I listened to my father’s the stories and wrote as fast as I could, and it was a beautiful day; we drove to both Magic Wings and Mt. Greylock, he telling me about his parents, grandparents, uncles, his brother — so many stories and memories.  I could almost see him disappear into the memories…as ballboy for his Uncle B’s softball team, full of adolescent pride to be part of the game.   His mind re-visiting the comfort of living above his grandparents, and having them nearby to visit.  He told me how his grandmother used to put an egg in her hamburger meat before cooking it, to make the burger extra-moist.  How he still remembers how delicious it was; how her apple pie beat all.  And how, when he was a very little boy, his pretty, sturdy, red-headed mother sang the Irish Lullaby to him at night.

It’s obvious he is someone who learned honor and respect at a young age.   Maybe even someone who didn’t need to learn it, because it was part of his personality already and then reinforced by necessity.  Who knows what makes us what we are?  It’s all these stories, all these memories, all these little details.   We came nowhere near finishing the book, but it was a good start.

Magic Wings:  where butterflies abound year-round


Dad & me up on Mt. Greylock.  Gorgeous view!

I guess I’m going backwards in the telling of things this weekend…

On Saturday it was the usual visit to see Boo.  It was so usual, it was almost an amalgam of all the visits we ever have.  He was good about half the time but definitely what Andy and I have come to call squirrely and he did, at one point, pull my hair in a double-fisted hard yank, but I know what to do — you grab the child’s wrists and push their hands into your head.  If you pull away it will hurt.  Then he mangled my spare glasses (thank God and little baby Jason I remembered to bring the spare pair).  But other than that, he was mostly just wild to swim.  Take a bath.  Go to the swim-pond.  Go to the river.  There were many kisses and smiles, and all was certainly not ruined.  So, a pictorial for you…


he was meditative for a while

i like this picture

It has, I should say, been an eventful weekend.  Now I’m getting a wicked headache and may go to bed even though it’s only 8:13pm.  ‘Night.

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On Sunday, the 10th anniversary of 911, my dad and I drove down to visit Jonah.

Ten years ago, September 11th was a Tuesday.  I worked part time for St. Francis de Sales Church and I was pregnant with Boo.  I had just started feeling him move around inside me – a tiny, timid mouse nibbling at my insides.  Wow.  I’d been so excited the day I learned I was pregnant – June 14th, 2001.

Then, just 3 months later, September 11th.  As I learned of one catastrophe after the next, everything went into slow motion.  All action ground to a halt.   Like everyone else, I was in shock.  I felt grief and anger, terror and outrage.  I felt the eerie silence of the skies when all commercial planes were grounded.  And when planes did begin to fly again, nobody could look at them without remembering 911.

What shitty timing we have, bringing a baby into this brave new world of terror & fear, I thought.

As it turned out, growing a baby inside me and taking care of that teeny baby gave me hope again.  Of course, after 911, things were never the same.  But I’d hold Jonah in my arms and wish a mother’s wish:  maybe he’ll be the one to change the world.

On the drive down to visit him yesterday, I asked my father all about politics and presidents.  My dad’s a history buff and I like listening to his perspective, especially about things and people who made history happen before I was born.   My dad’s got quite the objective viewpoint, lending his ear to Bill O’ Reilly and Michael Moore alike before forming an opinion.  So I listened, and we talked, and it rained, and I thought oh shit, we’re not going to even be able to take Jonah to the playground – but we were lucky.  It stopped raining and by the time we got to the school, the ground was dry.  At first Jonah backed off, but then walked toward us, asking car ride?  I told him we were going to the playground instead.

He was a good boy, little Boo.  He and my dad (Jonah calls him Pa) went on the swings.

Already, Jonah has a favorite swing and goes to it every time.

Jonah laughed and sailed through the air, asking mama push?

I pushed him and pushed him.  On and on he sailed on his chosen swing.  Back home he was never all that interested in swings.  I watched him and wondered why, and I pushed him, and he let Pa push him, and I pushed him some more until it felt like a workout (which is lame, I know).  Then we walked up to the visitor’s center, where we gave yummy grapes and contraband black soda to a joyful Jonah.

Oh yeah!

In Francis Hodgson Burnett’s book The Secret Garden, wise Susan Sowerby says, “the two worst things that can happen to a child are to always get what he wants, or to never get it.”   So he gets his black soda once in a while.

After our impromptu picnic we walked down to the pond and back up to the swings.  “Who’s that?” I asked Jonah, pointing to my dad.

“Pa,” he said in his small, sweet voice, smiling.  He was good, little Boo, if a little hesitant.  We brought him back to the visitor’s center where he used the potty like a pro, and back again to his beloved friend, Swing.  But eventually it was time to go.  I prayed he’d let us go without a care, which I knew was a longshot at best.  Of course Jonah panicked.  Home? he cried.  Home?

I told him daddy was coming later (he was, thank God) and both my dad and I kissed him goodbye,  but when a care worker started to guide him toward the house, he bolted after me and clung to my side, wailing.  Twice more we got him back to his house and twice more he squirmed away, running fast after us, now openly crying.  Oh, sweetheart, I told him.  It’s okay.  Snack is soon, and daddy’s coming.

Finally he was inside his house, and my father and I walked away faster, not looking back.  Faster.

I’m grateful my dad let me weep and feel sorry for myself for as long as I needed.  He took a slower route home – hurting more than I know he let on.

I spent the rest of the night unpacking and putting clothes away in a sad daze, and when I fell asleep I had foggy, uncomfortable dreams.

This morning I wanted to turn over and go back to sleep, but I knew I couldn’t.  If you lose a Monday in my job, it makes Tuesday ridiculously hard. 

Mid-morning my cell phone rang; it was the nurse at Jonah’s school.  She told me Jonah was okay, but he was taken by ambulance to the hospital because he had a bump on his head and then he threw up, and they wanted to make sure he didn’t have a head injury.  Then, not 15 minutes later, she calls again to tell me he’s being transferred to a larger hospital in Poughkeepsie.  At this point I really started to worry.  I’m glad they were over-cautious but the two-hospital gig was unnerving.

Andy went to see him and turns out he was okay – they think he maybe had an allergic reaction to mosquito bites.  (He did have 4 or 5 bites on his forehead when I visited him with my dad).  They brought him back to his house and he rested for a while.

So for a few hours today I was trying not to panic, but inside I was terrified.  Heart through the wringer, two days in a row.

When I called his house around 8pm to see how the rest of his day was, they assured me he was fine.  He played on his scooter, ate well, and went to bed just a little early.  I called Andy and my mom to relay this latest news.

Now I’m sitting in a rocking chair and half-watching All in the Family as I type.  I’m breathing deep, in and out, smiling over at cat Almanzo on his scratching-post perch:

His paws make a heart when he puts them together, sweet thing…

…and dog Jack is hanging out looking cute:

M and I are both typing.  I’m thinking of Boo, grateful he is okay.

There are boxes and bags everywhere, but we’re ignoring that because we feel like it.  I’m exhausted and I’m writing like it.  I’d like a day where not much of anything happens.

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Today, Jonah brought home some Mother’s Day presents he’d made for me at school (3 different cards/posters) and a pink, stapled package.  Inside the package was a pretty orange geranium (?) in a little ceramic pot- it made me grin.  Thank you, Wildwood.  🙂

Then when I got home to my apartment, M told me a box had come for me from 1-800-flowers. I could tell it wasn’t from him because he was just as curious as I was.   A Mother’s Day gift, I thought with a smile.  Likely from my mom, or my dad – or even Andy, even though he’d already told me that Jonah’s gifts from school were all I was getting for Mother’s Day. 


I opened the pretty multi-colored bouquet and arranged the flowers in the vase they came in, and then I found the note:

Dear Momma,

Thank you for all that you do for me.  Thank you for train rides, moneycoin, waterfalls, trips to Grandma’s, peanutbutterrolls and too many other great things you do for me (and with me) to mention!  You are the best momma any kid could ask for and I love you soooo much! All done.

– Love, Jonah Boo

After I stopped crying my happy tears, I tried to figure out who could have sent it.  Who knows my address now?  Who has the sense of humor to put “all done” at the end of the card?  Who did this wonderful thing for me?  Andy says it wasn’t him.  M denies it, as does D, who watches him most.  And neither my mom nor my dad would write that.  My friends?  K or H?  P or Mx?  Maybe.  Martie?  Someone from 4 Winds?  from Wildwood?  Someone from work?  Someone I used to work with? A random reader? Hmmmmmm.

I kind of want to know who did this and I kind of want to believe in the mystery of it – to allow it to be from Jonah – to give it his voice, to have it be like Santa Claus is when you’re a child…or something from an elf, a faerie.  Or from one of my very best friends who’ve died – Gina, or Jennifer-Sanx.  Something impossible, yet true.  It’s all so right up my alley.

In one of my favorite children’s books, poor protagonist Sara Crewe receives gifts and has no idea where they came from.  Every day new gifts appear to help her make it through desperate, lonely days.  She doesn’t wish to force the identity of the giver if that person wishes to keep him/herself a secret, but she yearns to thank her benefactor.  So she gets the idea one day to write the person a letter and leave it for the next time s/he came.  The letter says, in part,

“I want to thank you for being so kind to me – so heavenly kind – and making everything like a fairy story.  I am so grateful to you, and I am so happy…”

Like Sara Crewe, I say thank you.  Somehow I suspect you’re reading this, whoever you are, and I want you to know you have made my day.  Thank you!!!

…and you’re welcome, Jonah.   You’re my precious little son and I’ll always love you, no matter what.

All done.

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