The Story of the Story

The story of the story begins on one particular day when my daughter decided to leave a note for the fairies. It was nearly summer solstice, and the days had gotten rather long. The long, warm days, with the smell of rye-grass turning a tawny yellow under a sun that was closer than it had ever been, and the mind of a child begins to wander. The very idea of school was already long forgotten. It may have been one day among many, but all part of the same moment in time for an eight-year-old.   It was the kind of day on which anything might happen, and often did.

This was not the first time she had had left such a note, and in the past the fairies had always responded to her questions. “What is your name?” she had asked the house fairy, who responded (sometime during the night) with “Peasblossom.” “Are there king and queen fairies? What are their names?” “Titania and Oberon.” When she eventually saw the play featuring Shakespeare’s fairies, she leaned over to me, eyes big and round, and whispered “He knew…!”

This particular evening, however, my little girl had gone all out. In addition to the usual note, there was a small plate with snacks for the fairies, and a miniature cup of water. She had placed a gift next to the plate as well – a small, downy feather. It may have come from her own pillow, but I didn’t ask. There was also tiny book with the food and gifts. Perhaps as big as a pocket matchbox, it was bound in rustic linen and had about 30 pages – all of them blank. This was accompanied by an itty-bitty pencil.

Tonight, the note read:

Dear fairies,

Thank you for all of the things you do in the world. I’m sure you have many wonderful stories to share. Can you please write a story in this book?

My daughter placed the note, the plate of goodies, the gift, book and pencil on the table in the great room, on the corner closest to the screened door. Everything was neatly displayed, and she saw to it that the objects were all visible from the deck. Her hope was that a passing fairy would notice the food, and come inside to find the note. I envision my little girl lying awake that night, listening for sounds of munching and writing, as a fairy – or even perhaps a group of fairies – had refreshments while responding to her request.

In the morning, there was nothing. The snacks remained, and the book was still empty. My child was visibly shaken, surprised, and probably a little heartbroken. I recall a conversation in which she couldn’t understand why the fairies would not answer her. “Perhaps they were busy.” I offered, but no, that couldn’t be it. “Maybe they don’t like cookies. You should leave celery or carrots…” Doubtful. Eventually we decided to try again. However, this time, we put the cats outside for the night, on the chance that the fairies had been scared-off by the beasts.

By now it was midsummer’s eve: A time of year when the magic of the spring and summer combine, and the unexpected truly happens. If we had been watching late that night, perhaps we’d have seen a small band of young fairies traipsing over the threshold, following their eensy-weensy noses up to the offering on the table. We might have seen them pick up the note, turning it around and peering at it until they realized its import. If we had looked closely, we’d have surely seen the itty-bitty pencil flitting over the first page of the tiny book…

In the morning, the snacks were gone, as was the feather. My daughter ran to the table and, after a moment’s hesitation, opened the book. I saw her flip through the pages, a puzzled look growing upon her face, furrows showing between her tousled bangs. “I don’t understand.” She said, handing me the book. There were only three words:

Love is Magic

We began to speculate. She had asked for a story, and this was all there was. Were the fairies being silly? Did they think this was a complete response? I could see excitement growing in my daughter’s eyes. Maybe this was a game – fairies are playful, right? Perhaps they were making a riddle somehow. But at least they responded! Let’s try again tonight and see what happens…

More snacks, and juice instead of water. Much fuss over the placement, and the cats had to be outside. My wife and I had a very industrious child on our hands that evening, but she went to bed at the regular time. In fact, I seem to recall that she offered to go to bed early, as though that might make the morning arrive just that much sooner.

And when morning eventually showed-up, the first page was unchanged. The second, well, the second page was still blank! Huge disappointment! Like a cold January afternoon, when you discover the chocolate you saved from Halloween, then realize it’s gone white with age. Anticipation dashed, but a moment of hope, and the desperate thought: “perhaps I can eat this expired chocolate, anyway, such as it is…” If you can imagine those feelings, then you know the fleeting expressions that raced across the face of my little girl.

She pensively turned the page, and – yes! There was writing on the next page! “There once was a scarecrow, on a farm not far from here.” Full excitement had returned. The game was revealed: the story was coming in installments. The first page, “Love is Magic,” must be a title page! She began to make plans for the coming night.

Each of the following 26 nights were a ritual of gifts for the fairies, and each next-morning became a ceremony of opening the booklet. We would gather as a family – my wife, daughter, the two cats and I, to discover the next sentence in the story. “It was tall and wooly, and filled with straw.” “The crows were not scared of it.” Eventually, one sentence at a time, we learned the whole story. My little girl was exceedingly happy, knowing that the fairies at our house were her personal friends.

And the days grew shorter, and the little book was filled, and we read the whole thing out loud to each other. Eventually school returned, the cats got to stay in at night once more, and summer was forgotten again. But the fairy story remained. I would like to tell you that the fairies came back and painted wonderful illustrations to go with the story, but they did not. The fairies apparently decided to leave that part to my discretion, and well that they did. There are few people in the world with which I would trust such a task, and I had just the person in mind for the job.

It was another summer solstice, and the days had gotten long once again. The rye-grass had been replaced with wild-flowers, planted to defend us from the star-thistle which was invading our yard, and the sun was as close as it had ever been. One day among many, but all part of the same moment in time for me.   It was the kind of day on which anything might happen, so I made a call to Mitch I told him the story of the story. Mitch – an artist and a gentleman – tried to claim, in humble fashion, that he was not worthy of this task – yet I prevailed.   And with his help, “Love is Magic” became a book.


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