she appeared out of nowhere that long ago night. why, we hadn’t an inkling, not even the slightest, that somehow she’d slipped in the room, surely was inches away–perhaps deep in the toy chest–that fine summer’s night as the soon-to-be-birthday boy was tucked into bed.
he was just a little thing back then, dimples still on his knees. about to turn two, if i recall.
and just as soon as he’d drifted off, into that land where little ones dream, the someone who’d wafted in unannounced, well, she must have scurried to work.
had at that room in ways, thinking back, that had to have made quite a ruckus.
there was, for starters, crepe paper everywhere. she hung that room, and the four-poster bed, with a bi-colored web that would not end. downright festooned the place. made for a trap you couldn’t escape.
every knob was wrapped. every protrusion, a certifiable anchor for stream after stream of that long crinkly paper.
balloons bobbed from the headboard and footboard, and bookcases too. the room, with its bumper crop of inflatable bright spots, looked as if it had a case of the chicken pox.
i mean no offense when i say that whoever she was, she’d gone, frankly, a tad overboard.
and speaking of boards, there were posterboards in plenitude. hung high and low and in between, besides. scribbled and scrawled, in words and in pictures, each board with a ditty heralding the wonders of two. (and then three, and then four; as the years kept on climbing, the ditties climbed too, with year-appropriate themes, rolling from number to number, not unlike my creaky odometer.)
it was, i tell you, quite something to awake to.
and right from the start, from the first fluttering open of that little one’s eyelids, back at the dawn of that long-ago summer’s birthday, the attraction was instant.
the birthday fairy was here to stay.
a flat-out part of the family, she was, crepe paper and all. might as well set her a place at the table. or offer a cot for a middle-night nap, after she slips o’er the sill, and shakes out her satchel of tricks.
she’s been a rite, ever since. essential to each and every little one’s birthday. around this house you don’t turn from one year to the next, without the fairy fluttering in through the window, leaving behind her own brand of magic and mystery.
in fact, when boy no. 2 came along, all those many years later, so came a fairy, one who stepped right up and leapt straight into action.
year after year, it’s always the same.
and, somehow, no matter how tired i am on the eve of those birthdays, i always manage to stay awake late. always make sure i’m the last one stirring here in this house.
after all, i’m the one who needs to be at the ready, make sure that ol’ fairy doesn’t get tangled up in the curtains. sometimes i even get asked to hold the tape, while she has at the stretchable streamers. more often than not, she puts me in charge of seeing to it that the presents are set just so at the foot of the bed.
it’s always unfolded with nary a bump.
until this year, when just the other day, as i was out watering the garden, the little one–who turns eight on the eighth, that’s tomorrow–came up beside me and asked what the box of frosted flakes was doing in my office (the fairy always leaves a smattering of favorite groceries, a trademark move).
i fumbled there with the hose, tried to change the subject to something along the lines of why i’d seen fit to water his toes. he was barely deterred.
and just the day before that, driving to somewhere, there came this unsettling question from the seat right behind me: “mommy, tell me the truth, do you buy the presents or is it the birthday fairy?”
“of course, there’s a birthday fairy,” said i, dodging the heart of the question.
after all these two dozen flights of the fairy, it seems the little one, at long last, is peeking behind the birthday curtain. the magic, it seems, is being prodded with questions.
and it’s a question that leaves me deflated.
might this be the birthday fairy’s last believable flight?
might she soon retire to the sun-drenched paradise where santa, and the tooth fairy, even the easter bunny, kick back, put their feets up? sip on something tall and cool and quenching. think back on all the magic they’ve scattered over the years.
oh, don’t let it be.
although i might have guessed her time was running out.
i’ve always wondered why neither boy, up till now, mentioned how odd it was that neither their papa nor i ever wrapped a single birthday gift. left all that to the fairy who, long, long ago, discovered the unlocked window into our house.
and, ever since, has delivered a motherlode of magic deep in the star-lit birthday night, when numbers turn from one to the next.
i imagine from here on in, as his big, big brother now does, he’ll pretend to be deep asleep, while i go about my annual flight.
and when we all awake in the morn, we’ll marvel again at the magic that once upon a time arrived unannounced, and won’t be chased away by unanswered questions or birthdays that climb, year after year.
happily ever after.
i suppose i’m a big believer in magic, and a good dose of it will always belong in my house. what sort of magic lives with you? and how do you keep it alive?
i’ll be away next friday, spending the day at last with my ella bella beautiful, the baby girl now four months old. oh my. i’ll tell you all about it upon my return. so savor the week. i know i will.
egad. it happened today. the whole birthday fairy meander, version 1, went up in smoke. poof in thin air. without a whimper or a bang. just plain kerpluey. and i’ve now spent the last many hours trying to bring it back to life. it didn’t happen. and what you see up above is an attempt, in fits and starts, to resuscitate what once was a meander that i’d found quite to my liking. what’s here now is a pale, poor version of its former self. oh, well. so it goes when you write without ink and paper…..