A Story about Mary Polly
The summer that my only daughter turned nine we had been on the road in a camper for almost three months. Mary Polly has never been one for a big party, and we often celebrate her birthday with just one or two friends. This girl loves her down time, and she works hard to keep the edges of her days as low key as possible.
We wanted to do something special to celebrate her birthday that summer, so she and I caught the Victoria Clipper from Seattle to Victoria, British Columbia. For certain the most English place I’ve ever been to in North America, Victoria is all high tea and gorgeous gardens.
I had been once to Victoria, nine years earlier, when I was pregnant with Mary Polly. I had come on the ferry with family and friends. Mary Polly and I laughed as I told her all I remembered. My father had pushed Cole in a stroller all around the famous Butchart Gardens while just the girls went inside for tea.
I did not yet know that I was having a little girl, and I had not dreamed that nine years later I would be sitting in the same garden teahouse with my sweet daughter.
At nine, Mary Polly was already quite the traveling companion, foreshadowing many wonderful mother-daughter trips to come. She was all wide-eyed on the boat ride over, watching the waves and spotting the Olympic Mountains.
When we arrived at Butchart Gardens, I gave her the map and she lead us all around, marking the different spots and letting me know what we had left to see. She was completely enchanted by each new garden room, but her favorite was the Japanese garden.
When it came time for tea, she was a little worried about our not being dressy enough since all we had were the best possible versions of our camping clothes. But all thoughts of fashion were forgotten upon the arrival of the stacked trays of sweets and sandwiches. We took our time and made our tea stretch for as long as possible, staring out from our window seats into the perfectly manicured rose bushes and hedges. We discussed our fondest memories of the summer and what we were most looking forward to about giving up our camper and returning to our life at home, an event that was just a couple of weeks away.
After our garden tour and tea, we wandered around the buildings and the piers of Victoria. Mary Polly stopped to watch a street artist drawing elaborate pictures on the sidewalk, and she asked me for some money for his hat. She looked at tea cups in shops with great awe and she carefully chose postcards for her cousins, which she wrote on the boat ride home.
She just seemed older in so many ways. It’s the first birthday I can remember one of my children actually seeming a whole year older. All of sudden she had grown into this little adult person, and it was a joy to be with her.
On our summer adventure of camping, Mary Polly and I relied on each other a lot for company. We showered together, colored together, read together and fought Simon’s two year old tantrums together. We bonded over being the only girls amidst a pack of boys, and our girl day away in Victoria was like a little stolen gem of a moment in the midst of a summer of being covered in dirt. Most of our summer was in shades of brown and green, but this day was all pink and purple and white. The flowers and the tea cups and saucers were bright shades of feminine color that we had been missing in our blue jean days at camp.
I wanted to bottle up the moment of sitting in a garden tea room with my little girl and hold onto it forever. Now Mary Polly is almost fifteen, and I still love being with her. These days she carries the world heavy on her shoulders, but I can still see that wide-eyed redhead running carefree in a garden.