Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Farewell The Faeries

The Durhams had a discussion a few weeks back. A big one, in a way. It marks the end of an era, and was particularly relevant to the Holiday season. Let me go back to the beginning, though...

About five years ago I heard a story on NPR. It was about how children at five and six and seven, etc very much still had the capacity to believe in magic. I recall the story feeling quite special, as if the presenter had taken advantage of that to build a real fantasy life into his kids' childhood. I rather liked the idea, so I tried to give it a shot myself.

There's Santa, of course. My kids had no problem buying into that. Personally, I find it a bit problematic. The notion of a jolly old white gentleman breaking in to houses all across the world to leave presents for kids - some kids, not all - is actually kinda weird. But I'm no spoilsport. I went with it.

But lots of kids believe in Santa. I wanted to push it a little further. I asked my daughter if she believed in faeries, and of course she did. As Maya was learning to read, I thought perhaps a fairy could give her some encouragement. So Maya began receiving letters from Sandy, The Reading Fairy of Western Massachusetts. They would just appear at some point, printed out and placed in some obvious space. Sandy would praise Maya on her recent successes, and then give her words to practice, reading goals, encouragement. Maya loved it. She wrote letters back. She had absolutely no problem believing in Sandy - or none that she expressed - and seemed to get a lot out of it.

Not long after, there was a bit of a tragedy in our house. One of our cats - very much beloved - went missing. It was pretty clear old Boy-Boy had likely become a meal for a fox, coyote or fishercat. He stayed out one night and didn't come back. Them woods are dangerous. Maya and Sage were devastated. Not much that we could say helped. But then, they got a note from the Cat Fairy.

The Cat Fairy is the fairy charged with protecting and looking after cats. She had heard that Maya and Sage were upset, and did a little detective work. She said she thought that Boy-Boy had gone on an adventure. She couldn't be sure. She'd heard a bit about him from other cats, but she hadn't spoken to him herself. She admitted that it's a dangerous world out there, and that cats do get killed by other animals, but she left the possibility that Boy-Boy was just too adventurous to stay at home.

This seems to have helped them deal with it. It didn't hurt that we promptly got another cat - Dolphin - to keep our cat population at two.

This began a correspondence that continued on and off for several years. Maya was always keen to give the Cat Fairy feline-related news...

And she always got responses, like this (It's a crinkled note, but may be readable if you click on it)...

I've got an folder filled with letters like this. A bit of treasure that I'll hand over to Maya one day, I hope.

And then there was Sage. He'd had a front row seat to all of this, but there had to be a fairy especially for him. There was. The Snake Fairy... See, Sage's favorite animals are snakes. Always has been. Go figure. The Snake Fairy was very happy to hear from Sage, and they struck up a correspondence. This mostly involved Sage impressing the Snake Fairy with his knowledge of rare types of snakes. The boy's knowledge is impressive, actually...

Thing is, the approach of Christmas this year caused a change in all this. Apparently, a friend of theirs challenged the notion of Santa Claus. This, in turn, led Sage to bring the topic up with Gudrun. And she, in turn, pushed the question my way. So... for a variety of other reasons we figured it was time to come clean. We did. The kids took it with considerable humor. Maya knew already. Sage gleefully recalled presents from the past, things stuck in stockings, cookies and whiskey set out for Santa. (Yes, I had to confess finishing those off.) He couldn't believe that Gudrun and me had done all that stuff! (And yes, it was nice to get the belated credit.)

But, how, you may ask, did this last holiday go? Wonderfully. Really wonderfully. We barely mentioned Santa Claus. We did, however, spend a lot of time and energy finding, making and giving each other presents. Lots of hugs, lots of thanks. Okay, so there aren't so many faeries around the Durham household anymore, but there's that much more love and appreciation for each other.

So there's still magic.



Blogger Kate Elliott said...

This is awesomely sweet. I wish I had thought of writing letters from faeries! Maybe if I'm ever fortunate enough to have grandchildren, I'll do it then.

2:17 AM  
Blogger Meghan said...

I love that. And I don't think the magic is entirely gone. It's just found its rightful place in the family instead of outside of it. :)

1:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, that's really awesome!
Make me wish to be child again, or to be much older for doing something like this for my kids :)

4:14 PM  
Blogger A. Hartman Adams said...

How delightful, David! What a wonderful gift to Maya and Sage. I may have to steal the idea some day.

12:07 PM  
Blogger David Anthony Durham said...

Please do steal it! Yeah, it was a lot of fun, and I think it's staying that way - even though the truth is out. Still feels like they believe in a way - and more so because of the time they spent interacting with these various invisible beings...

12:14 PM  
Blogger A. Hartman Adams said...

Do you know, David, that I still leave cookies and milk out for Santa on Christmas Eve? It doesn't matter that most years they remain untouched until the morning. It's simply a reminder to me that there are greater things operating in this world than that which we can see and test and prove.

So I don't think that knowing the "truth" will take any of the meaning out of it for Maya and Sage...or for you and Gudrun.

12:23 PM  
Blogger Kate Sheeran Swed said...

I love this! My sister and I used to read Rumer Godden stories as kids, my favorites being the Fairy Doll and the Story of Holly and Ivy. We'd go looking for fairies in my grandfather's garden. This is such a fun idea to encourage the kids in their interests and imaginations. Thanks for sharing!

3:35 PM  

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