I’m a big fan of Frances Hodgson Burnett (no surprise there). Since my first peek through the keyhole of The Secret Garden at her tangled wonderland, I’ve felt like we just might belong to the same family, so similar were her perspectives to mine. Like the coolest grandma ever she’s inspired me to claim my own “bit o’ earth” wherever I live, believe in the power of fresh air and human kindness, and — for a brief period between third and fourth grade — start calling my dresses “frocks.”
So to discover her real great-great-granddaughter’s blog and its lovely, Frances-y postings on Instagram was like discovering a long-lost cousin. Her name is Keri Wilt, and she describes herself as “a 40-something mother of two, creative soul, stumbling through life with a pen in one hand and a garden spade in the other.” And she has chickens. See what I’m saying? I could look in the mirror and give the same description. We just might be cut from the same cloth, snipped from the same stem.
This got me thinking about the influence of the fictional and real older women in my life, and how they might have shaped my hopes and loves. Would I love the smell of damp earth and the idea of a cozy garret fire as much if Keri’s grandmother hadn’t visualized them for me first? Or if my own grandmother hadn’t taken such immense delight in the phoebes and rhododendrons that surrounded her little one-bedroom cottage? Would I value literature and teaching as much if I didn’t have such warm memories of Mom reading to me by the fire, helping me sound out words? My mom’s mom could sew like Chanel and outfitted us in graduation dresses, school uniforms, and many an ensemble inspired solely by a work of fiction. Both my grandmas prayed for all their grandkids daily and gave generously of what they had. There were other women too, older than me and adept at casting vision and personifying true, selfless beauty – Bonnie, who treats everyone who crosses her path with kindness and respect; Diane, who genuinely cared about my young friends and me and inspired me to lead; and Aunt Norma, whose twinkling wit and relaxed-yet-cultured style I’ve always longed to emulate.
All these things – beauty, nature, values, humor, faith … have been passed down to me in one form or another.
I’m just feeling grateful this morning. For family, for new friends, for older mentors and visionaries. For women who chose to write when they could have been lounging around on divans, for grandmothers who served and prayed and painted instead of just watching the soaps, for leaders who invested in me when they surely had friends their own age who would have been much more interesting and reasonable.
I’m glad FHB’s great-great-granddaughter is taking up the pen (keyboard) and inviting us into her world. We will all be richer for it, I’m sure. And I’m humbled by the thought of the gardens that might spring up behind us as we move through life. There are sure to be a few weeds in the seed-mixes we’re planting, but hopeful that there are plenty of foxgloves, campanulas and morning-glories, too. Maybe even a few forget-me-nots.