Our Stories

Planting Words

March 20, 2017

“Mary’s WORDS almost tumbled over one another. “

The Secret Garden

Words are powerful. They get inside our hearts, shape us, build us up and can even break us down. Some words stay with us for years and years.


Amazing Paper Art made by Dobleufa

I am always amazed when a song plays that I haven’t heard in ages, yet I can still sing every single word and be instantly flooded with the memories of that time and place. Where were those words all this time? Had I tucked them away somewhere?

The same is true with books. Some we read, enjoy for the moment and toss readily from our memories never to be recalled again. But others touch us so deeply that they becomes a part of who we are and their words can come seeping out of us at the most surprising moments.  These words live forever in our hearts.

And for many, The Secret Garden is that book.

MY TRUTH: Growing up, I didn’t get it. I didn’t understand how special my great great grandmother Frances was or know that her words could somehow hold magic in them.  And it wasn’t until I read The Secret Garden for the first time at 41 , that her words finally pierced through my own heart and into the depths of my soul.  (To read the full story on that, clicking on the colored words above)

And because I now know, that not reading The Secret Garden until later in life was a part of God’s specific plan for me, I have not pushed my kids to read any of FHB’s books either. I want them to read them when they are ready, when they WANT to, and not because of some obligatory requirement being placed on their shoulders as relatives.

But, when I took my 10 year old daughter recently for the first time to The Secret Garden Musical at The Playhouse in San Antonio, I selfishly knew this was my first BIG CHANCE to introduce her to these words that live in the hearts of so many. I prepped her by playing the full Secret Garden Musical CD on the drive in, giving her a taste of the magic she would see.

As we sat in our seats before the performance, I leaned over, kissed her on the head, and tried to explain what a big deal Frances was and how her words have helped so many people. She looked up at me questionably as I went on to tell her how she would meet people after the show, who will be glowing with delight to meet us and will tell us their story about how much they loved this book and what it meant to them.

As the lights began to dim, I whispered…“Are you excited?” She rolled her eyes and gave me that “quit making this such a big deal mom” look as the music began.

BUT IT IS A BIG DEAL!” I shouted in my mind. 

I…spent the whole time grinning so widely that my cheeks hurt by intermission. Rylan on the other hand, was fading and fading fast. So I did what any desperate mother would do. I pumped her full of Peanut M&M’s and a Root-beer, hoping the sugar would give her just the jolt she needed to make it through to the end.

This tactic has worked before at the movies…and was my best shot. You see, my daughter never stops moving…EVER. And so when she does finally sit, and the lights go out…so does she. Did I mention that the performance began at 8pm? How did I not predict this outcome?

When dreaming about this night together, I had imagined that she would be completely swept up by the catchy songs and beauty of the story on stage that she would throw her arms around me at the end and shout,

“It was the best thing I have ever seen! Thanks MOM!” 

Biographer Ann Thwaite says in her book, Waiting for the Party:The Life of Frances Hodgson Burnett, that

“Frances found that it was like this all through her life.

What actually happened was never quite as good as it was in her imagination.”

Ugh…isn’t that the TRUTH!

It started with a head bob, then I felt her sink into my shoulder, and less than 10 minutes into the second act, she was fast asleep. I tried to poke her awake to no avail. My heart sank a bit, knowing all the good stuff she would be missing and wondering down deep if I had missed my one chance for her to fall in love with The Secret Garden too.

As the final curtain came down, I nuzzled her awake and headed toward our table in the lobby where we would be meeting and greeting visitors after the show. She followed slowly behind and promptly found a chair next to me at the memorabilia display.

I was so busy talking, that I didn’t get a chance to notice if she saw it too. Did she see, through the sleep in her eyes, the glowing people who were touched by the magic of Frances’ story.  Can you see it in their faces too??












This is truly one of the most humbling parts of being the great great granddaughter of Frances… to be with people as they open up about their very personal experiences with this book. I have been told how this story kept some safe in broken homes, or instilled life long love of gardening for others, and it unlocked BIG dreams that were dead like the garden for some many more.  Each story is different and beautiful.

HER WORDS DID THAT! And they are still touching people today.

As we climbed into the car, I too was glowing from the night of amazing music, stories, and fantastic people…who were all inspired by Frances and her words. I tried not to show any disappointment in my sleepy girl who was already tucked in for the long ride.  She couldn’t help falling asleep, and I know that. I simply started the car and shook my head a bit while my heart whispered inside…”She still doesn’t get it.”

But before we left our parking spot, she asked, “Mom, can you turn on The Secret Garden music again?”

My heart lifted a bit as I turned on the music, pulled out of the parking lot, and within just a few miles of the theater, it fell again as I heard her snoring softly beside me. I sighed deeply and then sang my heart out the rest of the drive home to the very songs that I had to bite my tongue during so that I wouldn’t sing them out loud during the cast’s fantastic performance.

I spent the next week pondering if it was even worth it to take her, perhaps she was just too young to “get it”. The answer was found, well, where else but in my own garden. The kids and I spend much of their spring break tilling up the soil, weeding and planting an abundance of seeds and seedlings.

During one particularly arduous weeding session, I heard my daughter begin to sing to herself as she raked the bed:

“Mistress Mary, Quite Contrary, How does your Garden Grow?” 

My heart smiled so big it almost exploded! Now, perhaps she doesn’t still “get it” in her head, but Frances’ words and the songs of this beautiful musical did truly SEEP INTO HER HEART! And now all I have to do is tend that seed that is planted inside to full SECRET GARDEN bloom.

Mission Accomplished: Words Planted,

FHB and Especially Me

P.S. Thank you to The Playhouse San Antonio for being such gracious hosts and to Daniel Baumer for taking these amazing photos. The performance was beyond amazing and I can’t wait to take Rylan back for Hairspray, the matinee performance of course, this summer. Check them out at www.theplayhousesa.org for their upcoming shows.

P.S.S. Did you know you can BOOK US to Speak about ANY or ALL of her famous classics at your next event! 

The Secret Garden, Little Lord Fauntleroy or A Little Princess


  • Give you all the “dirt” on The Secret Garden, a “little” bit of background on Little Lord Fauntleroy, and help you find the “jewels” of wisdom in A Little Princess.
  • Fill you in on her life, one of the best stories ever written.  There’s money, drama, adventure, intrigue, fashion, famous friends, lawsuits, generosity, exotic locations, death, beauty, divorce, successes, failures…and of course a bit of earth.
  • And expore how to life a life in FULL  BLOOM.

Invite us to come and it will be engaging, informative, and always in FULL BLOOM!

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