That a child may laugh without ever having to be taught, is a beautiful thing.
That a mother’s song needs no singing lessons is purity in an innocent form.
The Fae are a people of great mystery, and will only spread their wings when the timing is just right.
As a grown man, I can recall a time of innocence and unabashed curiosity.
I was no older than eight years old when my grandmother let me explore her attic. She knew how I loved to pretend that I had been transported to a time of magic. I always said that I could see fairies in her gardens.
“Well, if you promise to be very careful, there is a book in my attic. Find it, bring it to me, and we’ll see if you can truly see some fairies.” My grandmother was a round woman filled with love and magic. Her cookies always brought me a warm feeling of sheer joy, but was nothing in comparison to the smile she gave me when I took a bite.
Her hair was pure white, very short, and curly. Her glasses were thick, and were supported by a simple wire frame. She always wore blue, and her house decorations matched. Her house was humble, more of a cottage than anything. With a great weeping willow in her back yard and bushes that grew bright pink, dark blue, and soft yellow flowers.
I always knew in my heart that she was someone very special, and she always told me that she knew the same of me.
Her house always smelled of her famous Swedish meatballs, and when she hugged me she smelled of light lavender.
The entirety of the house was carpeted and made running about feel cozy and warm.
The attic had hard wood stairs leading to an open hardwood floor and high exposed beams.
There were cardboard boxes, antique dressers, and two great big wooden chests. I had to explore!
The soft light during that early afternoon midsummer Sunday, was cast by the beautiful stain glass windows. The dust that hovered lightly gave the playful colors magnification. The only stream of clean white sun light shown over the smaller of the two chests.
I took this as a sign that this was the chest to begin with. I ran my little feet over, and with all my might lifted the lid open. I waved my hands vigorously to clear the lingering disrupted dust. I saw a pile of photos all of which were black and white. I saw a photo of a young lady in her twenties wearing a very old fashioned bathing suit and rubber swimming cap on her head. She stood in a pose next to a man in full military uniform. Other pictures included one of a child in a long summer dress with ribbons in her hair reading a great big book. Under the pile of photos was a big knit blanket. I remember how thick and heavy it was. I lifted it off and placed it on the neighboring chest. There, covered in cobwebs and smelling of ancient artifacts was a leather-bound book.
It was titled, The Fae.
I was overwhelmed with the intricate letters and the sensationally satisfying smell of the leather.
It took the rest of my strength to lift the book up and wipe the dust off with my little arm.
I was wearing red denim overalls, and a blue and white stripped long-sleeved t-shirt, with tennis shoes. Over this was a light grey knitted sweater that my Grandmother made for me and insist that I wear. How I loved to wear it too.
I found an old burlap messenger bag with great big leather straps. I threw the bag to the ground and wrestled the book inside. I then put the straps over my shoulder and the bag still touched the floor. So I yanked the bag by my tiny hands, and I ran downstairs to my grandmother.
“Grandeemaw!! I found it!!!”
“I knew you would sweet Caleb!” She said as she saw me struggle with the messenger bag. She sat in her rocking chair by the picture window overlooking the neighborhood.
“And I see you found your grandfather’s old bag!”
“Am I in trouble?” I was worried that I had crossed a line, given that Grandpa had passed away a few years before then.
“Oh Heavens no sweetie,” she replied with comfort in her blue eyes.
“Okay,” she said with strain in her voice as she lifted the big bag onto her lap.
“Now, what page was it on?” She flipped through the pages with so much familiar conviction. It was as if she had read the book cover to cover hundreds of times. Perhaps she had.
“Ahh HA!” She exclaimed as she flattened the book open by pressing on the pages.
She turned the book to face me, and she asked me to sound out the words.
“The Fae may fly, if you show them why.” I loved to read even as a child.
“Very good Caleb, go on,” her voice had muffled excitement.
“When a child can show the world around them true kindness, thrice…” I stumbled on a new word.
“It means three times darling,” Grandma interjected knowing why I had paused.
“Ohh,” I said shaking my head with epiphany.
“I know what I want to do Grandma!” I exclaimed.
“Well, hold on love bug, keep reading,” she said as she playfully nudged me with her elbow.
I let out a giggle and proceeded.
“When the circle of wild mushroom grows at first light, step inside with a housewarming gift. Sweets made from love.”
“I think we can cook something up,” My Grandmother said as she began her winded attempts at getting up and out of the rocking chair.
She closed the book shut and coaxed me into the kitchen. We made her mother’s recipe for gingerbread and honey cookies.
The house became fragrant in seconds as she hummed and cooked and asked me to blow kisses into each bowl of ingredients. She made it a point to stop when I least expected and tickle me with her flower-covered fingers. I couldn’t help each time laughing so hard I screamed.
By the time the cookies were done the sun was setting.
“Okay Caleb, whatever you need to do to show the word around you that you love it, do it now.” She smiled at me with wistful soulful eyes. I ran to the back door and opened it and sprinted into the gardens.
“And remember Caleb,” said my grandmother loudly from the open door,
“It must be three times! No more. No less!”
With determination and gumption in my heart, I ran over to the blue flowers and kissed the first one I saw and whispered,
“I love you, and I always will.”
Then I ran over to the pink flowers and kissed the first one I saw, and repeated,
“I love you, and I always will.”
Then lastly I ran over to the yellow flowers, and this time a bumble bee was buzzing around the flower I went to kiss. I put out my finger in hopes that the sweet bee would perch. It did, the bumble bee with instinctive trust walked gently onto my finger from the flower. I gave my fuzzy friend a kiss and whispered,
“I love you, and I always will.”
The bee buzzed around my head and flew back to the yellow flowers.
I was so wracked with glee. I ran and played in the yard, and in moments forgot why I was even outside. My childhood imagination took me to the land of toads, so I was hopping up and down and all around the garden.
My grandmother then came to the door and simply laughed out loud.
“Hello?? Silly Caleb, time for dinner!” I was immediately reminded of how famished I was.
I ran inside at full speed, and sat at the dinner table. I waited for my grandmother to sit. She had made her renowned Swedish meatballs over spaghetti.
“You know what Grandeeemaawww?” I said with hyper energy.
“What’s that Caleb?” she replied looking up and over her glasses as she went to put a fork-full of food in her mouth.
“I love you, and I always will.”
She began to tear up, and she said.
“I love you too my sweet Caleb, I am the luckiest Grandeeemaaww that ever lived.”
I showed off my biggest smile, and giggled at her.
After dinner, I brushed my teeth and slipped into my pajamas, and Grandma tucked me into bed.
She carried into my bedroom the great big book.
Having forgotten about it, I was reminded how fascinated I was with it. I wiggled with elation, and awaited a story from my grandmother.
She sat down at the foot of my bed, and opened the book, she let out a nostalgic sigh and tugged the quilt tighter to make sure I was safely tucked in.
“There once lived a noble people. The Fae were gifted with iridescent wings that glistened in the light and had the softest of rainbow colors. Their style was peculiar and fashioned from the silk of spiders. Their ears were elegant and pointed, and their eyes were all the same shade of green. They only flew when a child giggled. For the giggle shared love with the world. They were a secret people, and legend has it only but a few are left. Should a child of noble intentions and with the purest of giggles, show love to the natural world, and present just the right token of salutations, a circle of wild mushrooms may grow. That the child may wake at first light, to see the circle, wait not for any time to pass, the Fae may choose to fly and play.”
Grandma’s eyes were tired and so were mine. She kissed my forehead and said goodnight.
I faded to sleep.
The warmth of the sun’s first light woke me with a jolt the very next morning.
I jumped out of bed, leaped into my slippers and bathrobe, and skipped into the living room.
My grandmother had already been awake and fully dressed. She wore pearl earrings, a string of pearls, a white blouse with a navy blue pant-suit. She sat in her rocking chair clutching the picture of the little girl reading a great big book.
“Good morning darling,” she said to me with the smile of a toddler; wide and energetic.
“Look at this picture darling,” she said as I sat upon her lap.
“This girl was your Grandma when I was exactly your age, and the book she is reading, is the same one you found.”
“Woaaah so that book must be very old!” I said innocently.
“Gee thanks for the reminder,” Grandma said as she smirked at me.
She ticked me as she herded me into the kitchen.
“So the cookies are ready. What’s say you run out and see if you can find the circle of wild mushroom?”
I jumped at the chance, and grabbed the plate of cookies and ran for the door. I stopped and turned around, and ran up to my grandmother and gave her a hug and a kiss on her hand.
“Love you Grandeeemaaaww!” I exclaimed as I ran out of the house and into the yard.
I must have taken maybe three steps into the yard when I saw it.
The circle of wild mushroom.
I held my breath, and stepped inside, and held the plate of cookies to the sky.
I began to hear little giggles coming from every bush in the yard.
The circle of wild mushrooms began to float taking their earth-covered roots along with them. Then, there they were. Even more beautiful than the book said they’d be.
Ten fairies, not much taller than a glass of milk, flew up to me.
I saw them as clearly as I saw my own hands shaking to hold the plate up.
I was awe-struck, and began to giggle out of sheer nervousness.
They were fantastical and beautiful. They played with me all day long, and showed me their beautiful wings. I sat with them as they ate the cookies, and they smiled and fluttered their wings about to display their happiness.
Not one word was said by me or the fairies, we didn’t need to talk. Just to enjoy the company of pure unencumbered magic.
My grandma stood at the door and watched as I lived the wonder that she once knew.
I pointed to her and the fairies flew up to her and kissed her cheeks.
Grandma giggled and held up her picture in one hand and a cookie for them in the other.
The fairies gasped and smiled and accepted the cookie from her.
Grandma then covered her mouth and began to cry tears of joy.
I ran over to her and hugged her and asked if she were okay.
“OH yes dear Caleb, I am crying because of how happy I am dear.”
I looked back at the fairies and they flew over to where I stood with my grandmother and hovered.
I knew it was time for them to go home.
Away they flew, and Grandma looked at me with a look that shared a special secret.
So now, my son.
I give you the same challenge. In the attic, is a great big book, you’ll know it when you see it.
Bring it to me, and we’ll see if you too can see the Fae fly.