The Secret Garden

When I was but a little girl, I found an old photo tucked into a misused, dusty jacket. The book collected curious stains and lost several pages to wear and years of manipulation. It looked sad, (if a series of pages could ever look so.) Yet, I still wanted it. That’s how Frances Hodgson Burnett found his way back to my home, in an adoptive tone, as little girls tend to do with anything lost and lonely. Mother did everything in her power to get me to return it, but I only begged more each time, “Please, Mom! This one’s special! ”And so she ultimately handed over the value of the item, but only while exchanging apologetic glances at the librarian.
The megrim taunts until I give into productivity. Unpacking ails the throbs housed at my left temple in reminder of my love for not knowing it all, the comfort I get in the unknown. It’s the fourteenth time we do this. I see the book at the bottom of the cardboard and the sensation heightens tenfold. There is but one thing written on the back of the image (that still holds its place in the story.) “Grey polypody” is scribbled across in a feminine type, ink smudged, running down to where fingers naturally fall in holding. The quondam portrait shows a family in formal, but begrudging demeanor. I know nothing of the setting or time period from the still, just that it’s nothing I can relate to. Not a depiction I see in our albums, anyway.
My heart skips a beat, or two, in hearing the words Pleopeltis polypodioides being spoken into existence in the middle of Botany lecture. The words come spilling out in slow motion as I immediately recall the photograph. I receive a puzzled stare from the professor, and miscellaneous jeers from the forty-two others surrounding my desk. I also receive a grade letter ‘B’ in the course. The most comestible of information gathered from my brain that semester was that the words meant “a species of creeping, course-textured fern native to the Americas and Africa;” the resurrection fern being its more common nickname. I’m pleased to feel closer to the family with faded saturation. It’s some granted resolution to a childhood mystery, one of many, many mysteries that lie dormant in little girls…even when they grow up.
I learn, as I get older, to ask less and less questions. It’s a caveat to prevent myself from injury from realities and disappointment. My catharsis lies in cozying up to a good read with a cup of tea and blankets. In visiting my old friend, so delicately bound, I get the furthest away from my sadness. I replace the imagery of my mother crying with visions of poppies, delphiniums, and rose bushes. I displace the feelings I have about being betrayed, the luggage that lay sitting by the door in a clumsy fashion, and the memory of the one film of light hitting my face as I hid from his sight. I learn to forget the best I can of the way it feels to lose your trust entirely in another and the sensation your eyes produce when your emotions demand a tributary, but your face keeps dry.
Today, I imagined in detail the face Mr. Craven holds after years of wayfaring, in watching his once-crippled son run towards him. I think to myself that it must mirror disbelief. I think he must feel unworthy, full of regret, and full of amazement all at once. It’s the face I see when I tell my Dad after all these years that I forgive him. I, too, think of the face I must have in this moment. It might look grayish and scurfy from disuse. I know it well. It’s how I know epiphytes attach themselves to other plants, gaining their nutrition from air and water and the like that collects on the outer surface of the bark. And they are reputed to live 100 years without water. It’s felt that long since I felt your love. It is how I know my expression is as a little girl once held in a photograph I keep.


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