Our Own Secret Garden

December 16, 2007
By Deesha Sarma, Plainsboro, NJ

My childhood was comprised of daydreams- musings and wonderings that would transplant me from my backyard into a fantasy world, a world where the characters from the books I had been reading would come to life. Every day, after my snack of Oreos and apples, I would sneak into my parent’s bedroom and clamber onto a step stool so I could call Brittany and plan out our day’s adventures. Then we would both scurry to our “positions”, me to the lounge chair in my backyard in the Jersey suburbs and she to the coat closet of her Boston apartment, and we would dream away, fighting battles against Captain Hook or having afternoon tea with Alice and the Mad Hatter. As the years passed, I no longer ate Oreos and apples everyday and I didn’t need a step stool to reach the phone and the books we read had more and more words, but one thing never changed—Brittany and I continued to explore new worlds together. We were content to dream about anything; well, almost anything.

As children, there was one book we weren’t content to just dream about, one book we had to experience ourselves—The Secret Garden. F.H. Burnett’s rich, vivid descriptions of “roses rising out of the grass, wreathing the tree trunks and hanging from their branches, climbing the walls with their full vines cascading down again towards the grass” (Burnett 125) brought the garden to life with a magical air that enthralled us to no end. Her words made us yearn for a hidden abode of our own, a place where we could hide from the world just like Mary and Dickon. So Brittany and I decided that one day, we too would plant a secret garden. We had already decided on the location (the knotted labyrinth of trees and bushes in the woods behind my house) and the meeting place (the small stream running through my backyard). I had even “borrowed” some packets of seeds from my father’s shed and hidden them in my jewelry box. Now all we needed was the perfect time.

It never came. It never came because as we grew older, other worries—like school, sports, GPA’s, AP classes, and SAT’s—loomed on the horizon. It never came because Brittany and I began to believe that cramming for tests and worrying about college admissions were more important than fulfilling our childhood dream. So if I had one day, one delicious, stress-and-worry-free day, I would turn back the hands of time so that staying up until 2 a.m. is only allowed during sleepovers, and SAT, AP, and GPA are just meaningless, jumbled-up letters.

As the new day dawns, I will be waiting by the stream, packets of seeds clutched in my hands. And Brittany will show up with a shovel and spade, just as we planned so many years ago. Together we will trek to our top secret location, and the new houses built where the forest once roamed will vanish, until only our garden will be left. Brittany and I will spend the whole day planting saplings, tending to flowers, and enjoying the fruits of our labors and all that nature has to offer. Maybe, for lunch we’ll picnic on Oreos and apples, just for old time’s sake. But more importantly, we will take a break from the world, just as Mary, Dickon, and Colin escaped from Misselthwaite Manor into their secret garden.
At the end of the day, the seeds that have been lying at the bottom of my jewelry box for over ten years will finally be reunited with the rich, fertile soil. And Brittany and I will finally be reunited with each other, not as the stressed, college-bound teenagers we are now, but as the carefree, adventure-loving kids we once were.

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