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Flowers in the Attic: "To Make a Garden Grow"

Maggie Mae


To Make a Garden Grow: Chapter 8, Part 1. 

I'm on page 127 for those reading along. (I don't recommend it at all.) 

Cathy refers to Christopher as "my cheerful optimist," Which is weird. Christopher also states that "any day could see him gone. That is the way of heart disease. A clot could break free and find its way to his heart or lung and snuff him out like a candle." I stand by my previous assessment that Christopher Jr is a neckbeard. 

Chris Jr orders her to have more determination to placate the twins and themselves, and be more creative and entertaining. 

So they put on plays using the old clothing in the attic, which, for once, is a time honored tradition and age appropriate game. After a page or so of description of the moldy, smelly, old clothing and the play, Cathy trips and falls and Carrie demands to eat. Cory's hair has grown out and he wants to swing in the outside garden again. Poor kid. I know how this ends for him and it's not a happy story. 

Christopher tries to make the best of it (after all, he's Cathy's cheerful optimist!) by using large words to the 5 year old Cory about "bring[ing] about a metamorphosis and turn[ing] the ugly caterpillar into a brilliant soaring butterfly." They decide to decorate the garden and ask the mother for supplies. The "mother" sneaks up mops, pails, brooms (how?), scrub brushes, and boxes of "soap powder" (?) Mother actually helps with the cleaning of the attic! 

Cathy, in fact, is "marveled" that her mother knows how to clean! In Gladstone, they had a maid who came twice a week to "do all the hard, dreary things that would redden Momma's hands and break her fingernails." Oh poor momma! She has to CLEAN like a pauper. 

I'm afraid that if Christopher the Half-brother and Uncle of Corrine had stayed alive in Gladstone, his children would have grown up to be damaged in a different way. Chris would remain as neckbeardy and arrogant, but it would be excused because he's attractive. Cathy would grow up to be just as much as a dingbat as her mother. The twins ... Probably similar. 

Back to the cleaning of the attic! Riveting stuff! They swept up buckets of dead spiders and other insects. They saw droppings of mice and rats. Once it was clean, Momma brought plants and a Christmas amaryllis. Cathy realizes that she doesn't want to be in the attic at Christmas. Momma says they will bring it with them. Don't listen to her! She's a liar! 

Momma also tells her kids who are locked into an attic that she is going to a movie that night but she'll bring them raisins. She's going with a friend she grew up with, who happens to have two brothers. It's a musical. 

Every chapter has this * * * breaking it up into different acts. It's weird and old fashioned. 

In act 2, which is very short, we learn that the mother is bringing them paper, coloring books, and other craft supplies. They use this to make paper flowers for the attic. 

In act 3, Cathy describes her mother. She's still beautiful and radiant and healthy and has lots of shoes and jewelry. She's also unable to type without looking at charts of which key is which. It's really not. that. difficult. Get it together. You have 4 children to take care of. 

We are treated to this: 




Yes, men take typing. Momma explains that some are journalists, writers, or have some other good reason. She says "good reason." as though there are bad reasons for someone wanting to learn how to type. Anyway, so Mrs Brady is divorced and apparently likes to flirt with the younger men. AND to make this even worse, momma complains about the man that Mrs Brady is interested in as being 'too short' and how she could pick him up and carry him over the threshold. They all laugh because obviously short people are hilarious and no man who is 5'2 is worth anything at all. 

Chris is upset that the idea of remarriage has even occurred to momma. 

Act 4 of this chapter. 

Cathy complains about the quality of art that the twins are turning out. Chris calls it "modern art" because obviously non-traditional art styles are hilarious too. Also they are 5 and still working on coordination. 

Momma comes up and admires their work. She then brings them some sequins and beads. 

Carrie tattles on Cathy for forgetting about lunch on occasion. What 4 year old cares that much about food? 

Cathy wonders why momma needs to wear so much jewelry to secretarial school. Momma says that the kids need to make animals for the garden. Momma introduces Cathy to the concept of books. Is Cathy 12 or 8? I swear I knew all about "how to draw" books by the time I was 8. 

Chris goes for a realism approach, while Cathy decorates her animals with polka dots & plaids.  Cory made a snail that Cathy quickly insults in her head while simultaneously giving him praise. Christopher, being the horrible person that he is, brings down the room by correcting their language and boring them all to death with some information about taxonomy. He's 5, Chris. He doesn't care that it's a member of the mollusc, nor what traits make it a mollusc or how it feeds. I took zoology in college and I don't even care that much. It's a cardboard cutout of a snail. Let him have his moment.  (Actually I do care but only because I find invertebrates to be somewhat fascinating; especially the nautilus which lives in the deep sea. However I wouldn't bore a 5 year old with that knowledge.)

Carrie is working on something, which Cathy describes as a "purple thing" and that her method is "slapdash." Carrie "ruthlessly" stabs at her paper. Apparently it's a worm. Be nice to your bad-at-crafts sister, Cathy. It's not her fault. Crafts are boring. 

Momma, at least, tells Carrie that the worm is gorgeous. She's a little more critical to Cory. Cathy then "ruins it" (come on, Cathy, you didn't ruin it, Your shitty mother has locked you in an attic) by asking her about school. Momma is not doing well at school. Or she quit as she doesn't have answers to "how fast can you type" and how fast can you take "dictation" (?) Cathy is told to be patient. 

Act.. I don't know. It's another act. Just split it up into smaller chapters! 

On Fridays they have to erase their existence from the room,  so Cathy strips the sheets (do they ever wash the sheets?), rolls them up, puts the bedspreads (quilts?) over the mattress covers. Chris puts away the toys. Grandmother brings them food and orders them into the attic. Cathy has wiped way fingerprints and shined the mahogany. Grandmother uses the vacuum bag to make everything dull again. They can hear the maids cleaning up, and are scared that they will be discovered. BE DISCOVERED. What is the worst thing that can happen if you are discovered? OMG YOU WILL BE A POOR. 

I'm seriously wondering what damage this book did to me. Did it affect my psyche in some way? Is it part of the fire that burns in me to eliminate social classes? There is so much classicism in the USA and it's heavily tied into racism, but it's also so easily overlooked. I mean, you can dismiss it all you want, and I know it's not a popular issue around here, but ... ugh. Come on world, get better. 

Carrie was given new ruffled panties and enjoyed showing them off. She decides she also wants to be a ballerina. Stop worrying about skipping lunch, then, Carrie. I know, she's five. But jesus, this kid is annoying. Oh, she falls and hurts herself and changes her mind. 

And yet another * * * 

Where did the grass go? God took it to Heaven. Daddy likes to mow the lawn.  Apparently the Grandmother likes to try and catch them doing something "unholy" or "wicked." The kids are smart enough to realize that while Grandmother likes to open the door as silently as possible and watch them through a crack, she doesn't go up into the attic. 

Momma has a new expensive looking green suit and a new hairstyle. This is VITALLY IMPORTANT INFORMATION. 

Oh, and Grandmother has claustrophobia, which is described as "an emotional affliction" Cathy is surprised to hear that Grandmother was once young and small. Oh, and she probably isn't claustrophobic, because it sounds more like PTSD and small spaces are a trigger, but who's being neckbeard now? 

We get our first "Good Golly" in two chapters! It comes as a criticism from Cathy about how "even the rich had to be stingy." How do you think rich people stay rich? They make their neighbors buy their fine fabrics by the bolt! Or they run for president so they can use their connections to stay in power and have foreign contracts. Or they start a war as president so their friends can sign government contracts to build helicopters. 

Cathy runs into the grandmother while trying to get to the bathroom. Literally. Grandmother yells at her and asks a bunch of strange questions about what she is doing and why. Then it gets really strange. Grandmother wants to know why Cathy is waiting on Christopher; why he can't get his own water for painting. 




In response, Grandmother smiles sarcastically (I'm picturing a Cersei smirk) and tells her to ask Christopher, as the male of the species is born knowing everything. 

Grandmother brings back a plant for them and gives it to them unwarmly. 

AND YET ANOTHER ACT in this chapter. WILL IT END? 

Spoilers: Not for a really long time. I'm going to leave this non-proof-read blog here and come back to it later. 

Questions to ponder: Will they get out of the attic soon? (no.) Was grandmother showing a softer side? (I honestly don't know / remember.) Is "momma" a crazy bitch? (yes.) If you were trapped in an attic with your siblings, would you be able to hide and not get caught? Or would you all get caught because someone threw a temper tantrum over lunch vs arts & crafts? What would the "servants" do if they did suspect that there were children living in the attic? When will the people of the US wake up and demand Universal Base Income & Universal Health care? Automation IS coming and we are going to lose jobs but be more productive (or something.)

I have actual, non-interesting work to do. I'll try to get the rest of this chapter done this week but it might be a week.  


Links to previous recaps 

  1. Prologue and "Good-Bye Daddy"
  2. "The Road to Riches"
  3. "The Grandmother's House"
  4. "The Attic"
  5. "The Wrath of God"
  6. "Momma's Story"
  7. "Minutes Like Hours" 
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I laughed waaaay too much over "Christopher Jr is a neckbeard". That was a delight.

I read this novel when I was in jr high, when my high school aged cousin gave it to me. What she was thinking, I do not know. Anyway, it's interesting to read these reviews, because I realize now how much at that age I just took "Cathy's" word for everything. Chris was an optimist and clever and kind according to her, and so I was like "Yes, Chris is indeed all those admirable things!"  But reading this blog now, it would appear that Chris is a douche. I wonder how VC Andrews actually saw him? (I'm guessing...as an optimist and clever and kind. Deep subtext wasn't VC's bag)

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Cathy complains about the quality of art that the twins are turning out. Chris calls it "modern art" because obviously non-traditional art styles are hilarious too. Also they are 5 and still working on coordination. 

In addition to being five and working on coordination, they are malnourished and don't get any meaningful exercise, which would impact learning and motor skills.

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I also think the twins are portrayed as rowdy and loud just so it can be even more jarring and induce more handwringing when they get all quiet and holloweyed and DEAD later.


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On 7/27/2017 at 10:02 AM, GreyhoundFan said:

In addition to being five and working on coordination, they are malnourished and don't get any meaningful exercise, which would impact learning and motor skills.

and regressing because they lost their beloved dad and are being abandoned by their mother in the most confusing emotionally traumatic way possible.  They are going to be behaving years younger than their chronological age.  

I never understood the plant.  Was it a rare act of kindness?  The only other act of supposed kindness was arsenic donuts ...but there was no ulterior motive with the plant?

From a literary POV idk why they'd put it in if it wasn't foreshadowing.

Fwiw I think Corrine helping them clean is one of the most unbelievable scenes in this whole series.

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