One afternoon earlier this summer, when the heat was getting to all of us, and we needed an activity to kill that last hairy hour before supper, we found a fairy door. It was in our back yard, at the base of a tree we'd walked by about a 1000 times before.
Before we opened the door, my three-year old had never heard of fairies. I mean, maybe she had heard of a fairy godmother or the tooth fairy but she really had no clue that they were the kind of creatures that hid up in the treetops, crouching behind the leaves while giggling at us as we craned our necks to see them; that danced in the sunlight as it cuts through the backyard at dusk; that flitted around on the backs of the Finches that eat from the bird feeder outside our kitchen window. It took about 5 minutes before she was running around the backyard gathering pebbles to make their walkway, twigs to make a swing and a slide, and flower petals to decorate for their "first night arrival" party. After we decorated the base of the tree we got dressed up and made flower crowns and pulled our table and chairs outside so we could eat our spaghetti dinner in their midst. We cheers-ed with wine and milk and when we went in to bed June said goodnight into the canopy of the trees.
I honestly can't remember whose idea it was to write the fairies letter. It could have been mine. I very well could have planted it. But then again that doesn't sound like something I would do so it could have been June. Or it could have just been whispered to us. I say this quite honestly but something magical happened to us this summer. And while it started with a piece of bark I handed June and told her was the doorway to a fairy house in the tree, it grew like moss, like a stream that finds its way around trees in the woods, like a carpet of trilliums in the spring. The hole seemed to come out of nowhere; directly behind the fairy door, something we only noticed after it was in place. The perfect spot to place and receive a letter. A mailbox.
It became this beautiful first moment of my day; I will always remember this summer of June, her hair wild from bed, whipping behind her, as she ran barefoot to the hole at the base of that tree, eagerly looking for her reply. Most nights it was her last request of the day before bed, often climbing silently down the stairs to peer around the living room door at us as we sat on the couch "I need to write my letter to the fairies still."
Most days her letter went like this:
"Dear fairies. Iloveyouiloveyouiloveyouiloveyoubecauseyoubringmetheletters." One day, after a particularly long day together, (as often is the case when your captive audience is a 3 and a 1 year old) June was dragging her feet to get into bed. Exasperated I said to her "June write your letter now or no letter tonight!" Ask me how awful I felt as she sobbed as she wrote "Dear Fairies, Mama's not going to let me write a letter but I love you SO MUCH."
And then as the summer wound down, and we realized the fairies would be migrating south for the winter on the backs of the monarch butterfly population (that conveniently leaves Ontario for Florida and Mexico the first weekend of September, like clockwork every year) her letters started talking about the monarch butterflies and about their trip for the winter, and while she would miss them, she would see them next summer. Of course she's three and can't write, but these are the words she spoke out loud as she wrote; it's funny but do you remember a time when you couldn't read or write in your head? The world was so much more transparent and obvious. Obviously there are fairies in trees; obviously they can't stay here this winter! Obviously when I write a letter I use my voice and my hands and my whole heart.
So on the long weekend we threw the fairies one last party. We set the tent up. Pulled the sleeping bags out. Pulled all the stops with hibiscus flowers in their swimming pool and vines around the doorway and a carpet of Hosta leaves leading away from the doorway. June added milk and creamers from the diner for their drinking cups and we fixed their swing and wrote a goodbye letter. We placed it in the hole and then after it got dark we had a bon fire and ate s'mores and then we went swimming under the stars. And after we had dried off around the fire again, we walked through the heat of that early September night and tucked our three-year old dreamer into her sleeping bag under the tree that her fairies lived in for a summer.
I woke up several times throughout the night always to the sound of the tree frogs singing away. And like magic in the morning, you could feel the fairies had left before the dawn. They had likely had one heck of a party, having left a trail of hydrangea petals from the tent door to the fairy tree. Their letter said they didn't want to wake June up. And I believe them.
In the past week she has told me how much she misses the fairies. And how she wishes she could still write them letters. But she knows they aren't there. I wonder how much of this will come to mind next summer; when the nights are hot again. When the trees start singing again. When the gladiolas won't quit. For me, as you can probably imagine happens when you are part of something magical, this summer has become seared in my mind; The summer that we found a fairy door in a tree in our backyard and the summer of June.