Friday, January 27, 2012

Mandy & The Secret Garden

My Friend Mandy as Mary Lennox from The Secret Garden

She wears her secret key around her neck and carries a basket of flowers

Fantastic condition for a doll from 1984

My own garden, with anemones blooming more than a month early.

Today was Jerry's day off so I could work for a long time and was able to finish another doll I've had in the works. If you read the last post you know I was working on another Burnett doll and here she is! Mary Lennox, of course! I read this novel so many times I probably could have recited it from memory as a child.

Why did Frances Hodgson Burnett's books speak to me so alluringly? Maybe because they both featured girls who were orphaned, as I was partially orphaned. But instead of my humdrum existence these girls were sent to lives that seemed very exotic to me. The manor Mary inhabits, with its miles of corridors full of empty rooms, gardens within gardens, rooms within rooms, secrets within secrets. The story was just thrilling to me! For ages I was obsessed with moors and heather. Even gardening took on a certain cache--a real challenge for me. We did have a huge garden and I had to work in it a lot. I particularly hated picking strawberries. Strawberries themselves don't bother me, but the leaves give me a rash and make my hands itch terribly. Picking them and cleaning them was one of the banes of my youth. I still grow strawberries but now I wear gloves to pick them! Now of course I love to garden. It is getting hard with the big swing in climate we have experienced lately. Today I was shocked to see anemones blooming; we don't usually have them until March! And I have a midget hyacinth blooming already. I hope my peach tree doesn't come out early and get zapped.

One of my favorite parts of the book was when Mary finds the family of mice in the chair. Now of course that seems pretty disgusting, but I was a big animal collector at the time and finding baby mice would have been heaven to me. I actually did have some pet baby mice as a girl, rescued after my step-father accidentally dropped a log from the woodpile on their mother.

For this doll I made an old-fashioned gown out of some pale aqua fabric I found in my parents' attic. I don't know if it's cotton or voile or what. It's pretty sheer, so I'm going back and forth about whether to make a slip to go under it. I machine-embroidered the dress with flowers and then hand-beaded the embroidery. I made a key necklace for Mary, and a hat for her to wear in the garden, and added a basket of flowers to complete the look. You can see the "before" state of the doll in the Illustrated Life post.

I sometimes have a recurring dream in which my sisters and I are cleaning out my grandmother's house after her death and we find a room in the basement which we never knew existed. In it we discover rows and rows of clothes from my grandmother's youth (she was famous in her little town for her fabulous sense of style!). I am always so disappointed to wake up from that dream! I think this story holds the same appeal. It's so exciting to imagine a place where you discover something new every day. The trick, I guess, is to realize the world itself can offer that opportunity and seize it!

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