kate maberly
Mary, Mary…
by Mary Kendall

Shut away.

Your attributes, little Mary.
A long list.
No one liked you.
Except for me.

Not true. There were others.
Your sweet Indian Ayah, who fed you,
washed you, dressed you, taught you,
tolerated your contrary ways, angry words,
miserable frown. She held you close,
rocked you after nightmares and dark dreams,
fanned you in the hot Indian summers.
She sang to you—mellifluous, soothing songs.

Your mother denied your existence, hid you away from view,
just as later, you’d find your cousin Colin, hidden away, too.

What damage it did.
What pain it caused.
Like a plant held too long in a small pot,
its roots pot-bound and crippled,
Colin, unwanted and denied like you.


My family separated when I was just five,
I felt adrift, alone, unnoticed, confused.
A new school, new neighborhood, no friends,
and six months later another move,
another home, another school. No friends.
We went about life as if nothing changed.


I was ten (like you) when I read your story,
when I fell in love with a book for the first time.
I knew that I knew you!
Contrary Mary. Outspoken. Angry. Fearful. Sour.

How could I not love you, Mary?

Chapter after chapter,
I quietly snuck into your story.
I became you.
I made friends with young Dickon,
and his small clutch of animal friends.
I pet a fox. I held a crow.

You ranted and raved.
You hollered and fussed,
but young Martha just smiled
and taught you how to dress
and feed yourself. Her mother’s
kindness—a jumping rope for you.

The little robin showed you the key.
The sleeping garden was hidden, too.
Dickon spoke the lovely names of flowers
and taught you by example
to nurture what was fragile and small.

Your fate was cast, Mary, and so was mine.

Together we lived your story. You found
young Colin, argued, told him stories,
listened to his and learned you weren’t
alone in being unwanted in this world.

The garden grew. Kindness flourished.
Ben Weatherstaff’s heart softened, and
now a determined Colin learned to walk.
His newest secret was revealed to all,
even his father who had turned away.

A happy ending. One we all needed.
Through your story, I knew my garden
would grow someplace one day.

You showed me the heart is resilient,
even when pushed far away from view.
Each of us holds a glimmer of possibility,
sometimes only a slender strand of hope.

How could I not love you, Mary, my own?

PHOTO: Kate Maberly as Mary Lennox in the 1993 film version of Frances Hodgson Burnett‘s 1911 novel The Secret Garden.

Mary age 4A

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: For me, there was only one Mary I would write about. She was not even a woman but a girl. She never existed, and yet she was so real that she made me fall in love with books. Mary Lennox, the main character of The Secret Garden, was a difficult child, an unloved child, a contrary girl. Her story is one that had a strong, personal pull for me as a ten-year-old girl reading this book for the first time. She is my special Mary.

PHOTO: The author at age four in Buffalo, New York.

Mary Kendall

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mary Kendall lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, with her husband and Labrador retriever. She is a retired reading teacher, so her love of children’s books goes back a long way. As a child, her favorite children’s book was A Secret Garden. Mary’s poetry has been published in Rattle, Ribbons, Moonbathing, Daily Haiga, Ekphrastic: writing and art on art and writing, Gnarled Oak, hedgerow, cattails, Prune Juice, The Whirlwind Review, Wild Plum Journal, and Silver Birch Press. She is the author of a chapbook, Erasing the Doubt. Please visit her website, A Poet in Time: http://www.apoetintime.com.