Two years ago my daughters wrote a letter to a potential fairy and left it out on the deck. She wrote back. Her name is Lavender Fawn. The girls stitched up beds from fabric scraps and fashioned sofas from soft leaves, they set out itty portions of banana and pea sized bowls of jewels.
Those who’ve been reading here a while might remember my discomfort with Santa etc because I couldn’t shake lying to my kids. So how did we get here? Where I wake at 6am to craft tiny notes from a tiny fairy who cares for fawns in western Montana in the spring and lives in Nicaragua during our winter and took a sabbatical to help the moon fairy with the tides last summer?
Because I can play make believe too. I learned from the best make believers of all time. And I can tell the truth in my make believing.
This year, at 8 1/2, Margot wrote a letter to Lavender. Lavender wrote back in her best fairy script. The following morning Margot raced to the deck, eagerly read the letter and then looked to me.
“Mama, this looks like your handwriting.”
“Is it your handwriting?”
She shrugged and smiled. She sat down to write Lavender back. Drew her a heart on a little fairy-sized rock. Arranged it all beautifully with tiny fairy writing utensils, gave me a hug and said she could’t wait to see what the letter said tomorrow.
Ruby is naturally curious about the things her big sister takes interest in. Sometimes it sticks, like obsession with blank books. Sometimes it doesn’t stick, like tight pants. But this interest in the realness of fairies? That stuck.
She came to me two nights later, tearful because she knows not to look up things online without a parent but she did and saw something scary. Honestly, my first thoughts were dark. I imagined she saw…I don’t even want to type it. I followed her to the ipad and this is what she found while searching for “pichers of real tooth fairies.”
Now, that is a mildly scary thing. And really funny all around. But it did freak her out. The tooth fairy situation is already a little dicey but who wants a groggy, green-faced Bruce Willis in a bad Pollyanna wig visiting toothless, doe-eyed children in the dark of night? I’ll take Tink.
We had a good chat about it all — the crumminess of feeling afraid, the inability to unsee things you see, the weirdness of the internet and reasons we have rules for its use. Also, about pretend images and fake ideas. What to believe.
That night she left her tooth under her pillow. When the tooth fairy came in to take the tooth and give the loot, she found a note in the most careful, endearing kindergarten spelling. “Dear Tooth Fairy, I am not sure I want you to take my tooth. I like my tooth. But I do want money.” Love, Ruby
The good fairy left the tooth and the money. The following morning, Ruby grabbed a stool and climbed up to the little ceramic jar where I keep my girls’ teeth. I didn’t know she knew that jar. She put her tooth in there without asking a question.
I remain careful about how I talk about the fantastical ideas that leave quarters under pillows and fill stockings with bubblegum. My decidedly frank yet encouraging approach might confuse things. But I do think it clarifies. As with all parenting everything, time and therapy will tell.
“Mama do you like know the Easter Bunny? How did you get the aprons you made in with the other things? Or, wait, is it all you?”
“Anyway, it’s fun.”
Margot and Ruby know. They trust and tell the whole truth with their whole hearts. They know about the endurance of beauty and magic. They know about joy and faith, about the immortality of make believe. And I’m remembering, learning from them.